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EuroCommerce welcomes the opportunity offered by the European Commission to comment on the draft Vertical Block Exemption Regulation and Guidelines (‘VBER’ and ‘VGL’) published on 9 July 2021.
EuroCommerce represents the retail and wholesale sector in Europe. Our members are active as distributors in the supply chain as buyers, sellers and resellers to other businesses (industry or retail) or end users (consumers) online, offline and omnichannel. The VBER and VGL are an indispensable source for shaping and adapting the vertical relations of our members with their suppliers and customers as they provide the necessary legal certainty.
• EuroCommerce stresses the importance of strong competition in the Single Market as the best way of achieving global competitiveness and ensuring that both business customers and consumers continue to have a wide choice of innovative and affordable products and services; this includes the need for consistent enforcement of competition rules by the European
Commission and National Enforcement Authorities;
• EuroCommerce believes the vertical rules have worked well but need adaptation, in particular to a digital environment, in which consumers interact with businesses through online, offline and omnichannel options;
• EuroCommerce reiterates the importance for retailers and wholesalers to set their own prices freely and welcomes the Commission’s continued strong stance against any kind of direct or indirect resale price maintenance, including minimum advertising prices that legally or functionally limit the freedom of retailers and wholesalers to set prices;
• EuroCommerce notes the growing development of dual distribution setups by suppliers, who are becoming direct competitors to their distribution networks and welcomes the proposal to clarify provisions on exchange of information in such circumstances;
• vertical restraints which damage the integrity of the single market, including territorial supply restrictions, should be considered hardcore restrictions and not benefit from any exemption;
• EuroCommerce is concerned that some of the revised rules on selective and exclusive distribution systems allow an unjustified use of such systems to the detriment of consumers and the integrity of the single market;
• EuroCommerce emphasises the importance of supporting offline sales efforts; however is concerned about possible unintended effects of the proposals on dual pricing;
• EuroCommerce reiterates the importance of marketplaces in today’s economy and their use by consumers and warns against allowing unjustified restrictions on their use and possible detrimental impact in particular on SMEs; EuroCommerce questions the reasons to exclude online marketplaces with a hybrid role from the VBER, which will lead to greater legal uncertainty for both the marketplaces and their business users.