Consumer electronics manufacturers Asus, Denon & Marantz, Philips and Pioneer have been fined by the European Commission for imposing fixed or minimum resale prices on their online retailers in breach of EU competition rules.
According to decisions announced on July 24, the fines totalling over €111m were in all four cases reduced due to the companies’ cooperation with the Commission.
“The online commerce market is growing rapidly and is now worth over €500bn in Europe every year,” said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy. “More than half of Europeans now shop online. As a result of the actions taken by these four companies, millions of European consumers faced higher prices for kitchen appliances, hair dryers, notebook computers, headphones and many other products. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.
“Our decisions today show that EU competition rules serve to protect consumers where companies stand in the way of more price competition and better choice,” added Vestager.
According to a Commission press release, Asus, Denon & Marantz, Philips and Pioneer engaged in so called “fixed or minimum resale price maintenance (RPM)” by restricting the ability of their online retailers to set their own retail prices for widely used consumer electronics products such as kitchen appliances, notebooks and hi-fi products.
The four manufacturers intervened particularly with online retailers, who offered their products at low prices.
In particular, Asus, headquartered in Taiwan, monitored the resale price of retailers for certain computer hardware and electronics products such as notebooks and displays. The conduct of Asus related to Germany and France and took place between 2011 and 2014. Asus intervened with retailers selling those products below the resale prices recommended by Asus and requested price increases.
Denon & Marantz, headquartered in Japan, engaged in resale price maintenance with respect to audio and video consumer products such as headphones and speakers of the brands Denon, Marantz and Boston Acoustics in Germany and the Netherlands between 2011 and 2015.
Philips, headquartered in the Netherlands, engaged in resale price maintenance in France between the end of 2011 and 2013 with respect to a range of consumer electronics products such as kitchen appliances, coffee machines, vacuum cleaners, home cinema and home video systems, electric toothbrushes, hair driers and trimmers.
According to the Commission, all four companies cooperated with Brussels by providing evidence with significant added value and by expressly acknowledging the facts and the infringements of EU antitrust rules. As such, they were granted reductions to the fines depending on the extent of this cooperation ranging from 40 % (for Asus, Denon & Marantz and Philips) to 50 % (for Pioneer).