The Hardcore Restrictions on Internet Distribution under the Regulation 330/2010 : The scope of Objective Justifications and the Double Negative Presumption
This thesis examines the approach and attitude towards restrictions on internet distribution in distribution systems under EU competition law. When the Regulation 330/2010 and the Vertical Guidelines entered into force in 2010 a new level of guidance was given by the Commission on internet distribution. The Vertical Guidelines made an important contribution with its detailed rules but did also leave some questions. In the case C-439/09, Pierre Fabre Dermo-Cosmétique which came in the late 2011 the COJ gave its first preliminary ruling concerning internet distribution and two of those questions are addressed and examined in this thesis.
The Vertical Guidelines state that distributors are generally free to use internet for sale and marketing purposes and the first question regards the scope of objective justifications for restricting internet distribution. The thesis shows that the Commission has taken a quite restrictive approach on restrictions on internet distribution which has, at least partly, been confirmed by the COJ. It is however possible to objectively justify restrictions with reference to foremost health and safety but also due to technically advanced and high quality products.
The second question concerns the double presumption rule mentioned in the Vertical Guidelines stating that an agreement containing a hardcore restriction is presumed to infringe Art 101(1) in the TFEU by not being exempted by Regulation 330/2010 and to not fulfill the criteria in Art 101(3) in the TFEU for being individually exempted. The examination of the rule and the analyze of case law gives that the COJ does not seem to take the presumption rule into consideration in regard of internet distribution. The conclusion is however that; restrictions together with any other directly or indirectly outright bans on internet distribution must be carefully constructed and performed.
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