STRASBOURG, FRANCE - 17 SEPTEMBER. eBay today called on the European Union to amend EU competition law to stop brands from restricting the sale of their products on the internet. Presenting a petition signed by 750,000 European citizens, eBay called for an end to the abuse of 'selective distribution' agreements that unjustly block the online sale of legitimate products across Europe. Such practices unfairly impact online businesses and entrepreneurs, and often result in consumers unnecessarily paying higher prices for goods.
eBay sellers from the UK, France and Germany visited Strasbourg today to meet with Members of the European Parliament to step up their campaign against unfair trade practices. The eBay petition coincides with the Commission's public consultation on the revision of the European Vertical Restraints Regulation and Guidelines which concludes on 28th September.
As part of this process, eBay has argued for greater clarity and support for cross-border internet sales, increased consumer choice and non-discrimination in the way that online and offline channels are treated for distribution purposes. Some Rights Owners have opposed eBay's position and aim to protect restrictive distribution systems and high prices at the cost of consumer choice.
"eBay was built on a simple idea - that it could empower individuals by building a global marketplace where practically anyone could buy or sell practically anything," said Alex von Schirmeister, Director General, eBay.
"Unfortunately, that idea is under threat from certain brand owners and manufacturers who are trying to block and restrict unfairly the sale of legitimate products on the internet. Through this online petition our community of users is calling on policymakers to amend European competition law to stop these unfair trade practices. "
In total, 752,605 eBay users in Europe have signed the petition so far, which was launched in July. Signatories include over 250,000 consumers from the UK, more than 200,000 from Germany and over 100,000 from France*. The signatories support eBay's position that brands should "not be allowed to impose blanket bans on internet selling, or keep online prices artificially high. Restrictions must only be based on objective, transparent criteria that are of proven benefit to consumers."
The petition also calls for a presumption against manufacturers being "allowed to insist that internet retailers must have an offline retail store before they can sell online, or impose more onerous sales conditions to online sellers."
Mary Honeyball, Member of the European Parliament for London, added: "In these tough economic times European customers and businesses need to be free to buy and sell all products at the most competitive market rates available. The internet provides a way for us to do this, by creating equal access to goods and services across Europe. So I support eBay's call to change outdated European competition laws this autumn and enable online retailers to sell all goods no matter whether they originate from Asda, Apple or Armani."
Launching an ad campaign in Germany and the UK to drive further awareness of the campaign, eBay said that its petition would remain open until September 28th and encouraged more European consumers to sign up. The petition can be found at www.ebaycampaigns.com
NOTES TO THE EDITOR eBay's petition at www.ebaycampaigns.com was launched on 6 July, 2009. In total, 752,605 people have signed the petition, from the following countries: EU Country Signatures Austria 13,956 Belgium 21,972 Bulgaria 524 Cyprus 348 Czech Republic 560 Denmark 1,059 Estonia 153 Finland 458 France 103,666 Germany 200,061 Greece 995 Hungary 594 Ireland 10,325 Italy 67,712 Latvia 474 Lithuania 416 Luxembourg 755 Malta 948 Netherlands 23,143 Poland 8,583 Portugal 1,714 Romania 454 Slovakia 357 Slovenia 438 Spain 29,000 Sweden 3,195 United Kingdom 251,712 Total EU Residents 743,572 Total EFTA residents 4,364 Total European residents 747,936 Non-European Residents Trading on a European eBay site 4,669 Total Petition Signatures 752,605 All signatories are citizens of either EU or EFTA countries or they are trading as registered users on EU or EFTA eBay sites. The full text of the petition reads: "We, the undersigned, oppose attempts by certain brand owners and manufacturers to unfairly limit the sale and resale of their products on the internet. Increasingly, these brand owners are blocking the sale on online marketplaces and other websites of luxury items, as well as everyday items like children's toys, electronic equipment, lawnmowers and pushchairs - regardless of whether such items are new or second-hand, genuine or fake. If we want to prevent other brands from following suit, we need to act now. We believe that such restrictions represent an unfair restraint on the right to buy and sell goods freely in the European Single Market and are based less on a motivation to benefit consumers than they are on a desire to artificially inflate prices and profits by eliminating competition from online sellers, many of them small businesses. We accept that brand owners should be able to determine, within limits, how their products are initially sold. However, we believe strongly that they should not be allowed to impose blanket bans on internet selling, and any other restrictions on trade must be based on objective and publicly available criteria which are of proven benefit to consumers. For example, manufacturers should generally not be allowed to insist that internet retailers must have an offline retail store before they can sell online, or impose more onerous sales conditions to online sellers. Above all, consumers should be allowed to resell items they have paid for. We therefore call on European policymakers to amend EU competition law to outlaw excessive limitations on internet selling and force brands to publish all vertical agreements which are designed to limit the trade in their products. At a time when consumers' purchasing power is increasingly under threat from the current financial and economic crisis, we urge European policymakers to take decisive action to promote competition and free trade within the European Union and call on political parties across Europe to support the right to buy and sell freely over the internet." ----