European Commission closes investigations into retail alliances

antitrust and competition

On 13 July 2023, the European Commission announced its decision to close its preliminary investigations into certain practices of two European retail alliances, AgeCore and Coopernic, and its respective members. The Commission had initial concerns that the trading terms negotiated by the alliances with manufacturers may have violated Art. 101 of the Treaty which prohibits cartels and restrictive business practices. Moreover, the Commission assessed whether these alliances could enable collusion and restrictions of competition, leading to potentially higher retail prices or reduced supply. However, based on a thorough analysis and careful evaluation of all the evidence gathered, the Commission’s investigations have not identified any evidence of anticompetitive effects stemming from the alliances’ negotiations.

Notably, the Commission found that retailers exerted a higher bargaining power negotiating through the alliances, which allowed them to reduce retail prices to consumers and compete more aggressively. The Commission noted that this pro-competitive effect of the alliances meets a key objective of competition policy, in the form of reduced prices to the benefit of consumers. It also underlined that this is particularly important in times of high inflation.

On this basis, the Commission has concluded that there is insufficient ground to further pursue its investigations.

A CRA team including Raphaël De Coninck, Christoph von Muellern, Elina Koustoumpardi and Dominik Fischer advised a major retailer during the European Commission’s investigation.

For more information, please see the European Commission’s press release.