The European Commission has sent another clear message that it will not tolerate restrictions to cross-border online trade, fining NBCUniversal EUR14.3 million for restricting sales of film merchandise products featuring the likes of the Minions, Shrek and other characters.
Having opened the investigation in June 2017 following its e-commerce sector inquiry, on 30 January this year the Commission found that NBCUniversal's licensing agreements restricted online sales, as well as the customers to whom and countries in which licensees could sell.
The decision follows fines imposed on Nike and Sanrio in 2019 for similar licensing practices. In fact, since completing its e-commerce sector inquiry, the Commission has imposed a total of EUR184 million in fines on companies creating barriers to cross-border trade. Executive Vice-President Vestager's message could not be clearer - the Commission "will not tolerate restrictions which undermine the EU Single Market", particularly in the era of digitalisation.
Today's decision makes it clear that brand owners cannot prohibit their non-exclusive licensees from selling in some Member States or to certain customers, or from selling online.