No. 23: Vertical Restraints on E-Commerce in the Context of the Single Digital Market Initiative of the European Commission


  • María Belén Sáenz Cardenal
Publish Date:
August 9, 2017
Publication Title:
European Union Law Working Papers
Stanford Law School
Working Paper
  • María Belén Sáenz Cardenal, Vertical Restraints on E-Commerce in the Context of the Single Digital Market Initiative of the European Commission, EU Law Working Papers No. 23, Stanford-Vienna Transatlantic Technology Law Forum (2017).
Related Organization(s):


One of the most debated topics in EU competition law is the application of Article 101 TFEU to vertical restraints concerning online distribution. In recent times, public enforcement of vertical restraints has been largely entrusted to the National Competition Authorities of the EU Member States, which has led to the adoption of heterogeneous approaches as regards this kind of vertical agreements and practices throughout the EU. The existing disparities may hinder trade, give rise to legal uncertainty for business, and it might contribute to the fragmentation of the Internal Market. In this context, the European Commission has recently conducted the ecommerce sector inquiry as part of the Digital Single Market Strategy, the final findings of which were released on May 10, 2017 after the completion of this paper. The Commission has gathered information, in order to understand the functioning of digital markets, and it has analyzed the effects of the most widespread vertical restraints on online distribution applied by companies. This sector inquiry is indicative of the European Commission’s determination to focus on vertical agreements in the future and to provide for a consistent and uniform application of competition rules on digital markets across the EU. This paper analyzes the preliminary findings released by the European Commission in the context of the e-commerce sector inquiry and the most relevant decisions delivered by national and European supervisory bodies in relation to vertical restraints on e-commerce up to December 2016. Finally, it provides a general assessment of the topic at hand.