On 6 June 2017, the European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation into the distribution agreements and practices of clothing manufacturer and retailer Guess.
Guess operates as a manufacturer, distributor and licensor of clothing and accessories. According to the opening statement, the investigation is aimed at ascertaining whether Guess illegally restricted retailers from selling cross-border to consumers within the European Single Market. More specifically, the proceeding will investigate whether Guess’ distribution agreements may restrict authorised retailers from selling online to consumers or to retailers in other Member States and whether they restrict wholesalers from selling to retailers in other Member States.
The Commission has clarified that the present investigation is a stand-alone procedure, that is separate from the e-commerce sector inquiry. However, the investigation follows up on one of the issues identified in the final report of that sector inquiry, adopted on 10 May 2017, namely cross-border sales restrictions in distribution agreements with retailers to limit their ability to sell online to consumers in other Member States to the detriment of the objectives pursued by the EU’s Digital Single Market.