LEGAL PRACTICES: COMPETITION POLICY - VERTICAL RESTRAINTS - ONLINE PLATFORMS - RESALE PRICE MAINTENANCE - CHAIN VALUE

Disrupting the traditional value chain: How online platforms challenge competition rules on vertical restraints and RPM

According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, almost half of SMEs in the EU use online marketplaces to sell their products or services. At the same time, many merchants report to have experienced resale price restrictions when selling online. Since online RPM is a widespread concern in online sales, and e-commerce platforms are ever more important in that area, a relevant question is whether and how vertical restraints and resale price maintenance could be implemented not only through online platforms but also by platforms themselves. This question is challenging due to the unclear position that online platforms occupy in the traditional value chain (and their potential role as agents), and the resulting difficulty is applying rules on vertical restraints to them. This article focuses on the ability and incentive of the different types of online platforms to restrict resale prices. The incentives of the different platforms in engaging in such conduct greatly differ, with the so-called ’hybrid’ platforms carrying the most important risks in that respect due to the inherent conflict of interests resulting from their dual role.

Introduction 1. Definition 1. In the EU, platforms have been defined as “software-based facilities offering two- or even multi-sided markets where providers and users of content, goods and services can meet.” [1] The definitions in other EU Member States are quite similar. For example, in France, a platform is defined as: “An online public communications service that relies on: 1. Ranking or referencing, by means of computer algorithms, of content, goods or services that are proposed or put online by third parties. 2. Or the putting into contact of several parties with regards to the sale of a good, the provision of a service or the exchange or sharing of content, a good, or a service.” [2] 3. Whatever the definition, the main characteristic of a platform is that it brings

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Charlotte Breuvart, Yannis Schlüter, Disrupting the traditional value chain: How online platforms challenge competition rules on vertical restraints and RPM, May 2019, Concurrences Review N° 2-2019, Art. N° 89921, www.concurrences.com

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