19 November 2015

French Competition Authority closes Adidas competition probe concerning online sales policy

In September 2012, the French Competition Authority (FCA) stated in an Opinion concerning electronic trade that producers are free to organise their distribution network as they wish provided that any arrangements do not negatively affect competition. Regarding online sales, the FCA made it clear that a producer cannot prohibit an authorised reseller from selling its products online.

Adidas distributes its products via a selective distribution network, restricting sales of its products to only a few dealers, selected on specific criteria. Contrary to the FCA’s Opinion, Adidas' distribution agreements prohibited its authorised resellers from selling its products on some online marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon.

The FCA was aware of this and looking into these practices, albeit never opening a formal investigation or proceedings against Adidas. On 18 November 2015, it was announced that Adidas had changed its distribution network restrictions, effectively closing the probe. 

Following the changes to Adidas’ distribution policy, resellers can now sell Adidas products on online marketplaces provided that they satisfy certain quality criteria provided by the manufacturer. The FCA has indicated that it will “remain vigilant” and will make sure authorised retailers have “effective access” to online sales platforms.

This informal resolution follows similar investigations in Germany into a number of sportswear manufacturers including Adidas, where the German competition authorities closed a vertical restraints probe into Adidas last year. The FCA stated it had worked closely with the Bundeskartellamt in pursuing the investigation.

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