In February 2013, the German competition authority (Bundeskartellamt) launched a survey into Amazon.de’s price parity policy for its Marketplace platform. (See our previous post.) This policy requires that the price of each product that a retailer offers on Amazon.de should not be higher than the retailer’s lowest offer for that product through any other online sales channel. Amazon maintains similar policies on its UK and French Marketplace platforms. The UK competition authority (OFT) has been running a parallel investigation since October 2012 following several complaints.
On 27 August 2013, the Bundeskartellamt announced that Amazon has decided that it will not enforce price parity on its Marketplace platform, and has already changed its general terms of business for some sellers. The Bundeskartellamt is “currently assessing whether the measures will be sufficient in their form, content and scope for the proceedings against the company to be terminated.”
Two days later, after Amazon indicated that it would discontinue the price parity policy on its Marketplace platforms across the European Union from 31 August 2013, the OFT announced that it was minded to close its parallel investigation. (The OFT notes in its announcement that Amazon Marketplace’s price parity policy will not be changed outside the European Union). The OFT welcomed Amazon’s plan, noting that the price parity policy “may raise online platform fees, curtail the entry of potential entrants, and directly affect the prices which sellers set on platforms (including their own websites), resulting in higher prices to consumers.”
European competition authorities are actively looking at “most favoured nation” (“mfn”) clauses in online markets. The European Commission recently concluded its e-book pricing investigation (see our posts here and here). A number of competition authorities are currently considering mfn clauses in the online hotel booking sector. On 25 July 2013, the Bundeskartellamt issued a new statement of objections against HRS concerning its best price clause in its contracts with the hotels featured on its booking portals. The clause requires hotels to always offer their lowest room price and other most favorable conditions available online also through the HRS booking portal. On 9 August 2013, the OFT published for consultation commitments regarding its related investigation.