Distribution agreements and EU Competition Law: the Pierre Fabre Case and its consequences on Internet distribution – Marina Sapello

On 20 April 2010, the European Commission adopted a new Block Exemption Regulation (no.330/2010) and Guidelines on Vertical Restraints, which emphasize the distributors’ ability in any type of distribution system to use the Internet.

The European Court of Justice rendered on 13 October 2011 in the Pierre Fabre case a landmark ruling concerning the regime of online sales in the context of selective distribution, setting out the basis for the approach to be followed on similar issues arising in the future to the entire spectrum of distribution agreements. On 31 January 2013 the Paris Court of Appeal delivered a judgment following the EU Court’s response on its preliminary ruling.

The debate currently faced by competition law in its approach on addressing online sales is particularly important as it illustrates a larger conflict within competition law, linked to the economic issue of online sales regulation in a transition phase between a physical and a mixed method of distribution combining physical sales and online sales, the so-called “click&mortar” form of distribution.

Internet remains one of the most interesting new frontiers for competition law.