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European Commission launches e-commerce probes

The European Commission is investigating alleged anti-competitive practices in the e-commerce industry.

The three separate investigations that have been launched are focused on consumer electronics manufacturers, video games and agreements regarding hotel accommodation between European tour operators and hotels, the Brussels-based EU body said Feb. 2. All three investigations cover issues of retail price restrictions, discrimination on the basis of location and geo-blocking.

The commission is seeking to determine whether certain online sales practices stopped consumers from accessing "cross-border choice" and being able to buy consumer electronics, video games and hotel accommodation at competitive prices in breach of EU antitrust rules.

As part of the investigation, the EC is investigating whether Asus, Denon & Marantz, Philips and Pioneer have breached EU competition rules by restricting the ability of online retailers to set their own prices for widely used consumer electronics products such as household appliances, notebooks and hi-fi products.

Separately, the agency is investigating bilateral agreements concluded between Valve Corp., owner of the Steam game distribution platform, and five PC video game publishers, Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax.

The investigation is aimed at geo-blocking practices, where companies prevent consumers from purchasing digital content, in this case PC video games, because of the consumer's location or country of residence. The third investigation is aimed at alleged hotel price discrimination by tour operators and hotels.