Online Retailing and Antitrust: Taking Account of the Paradigm Shift

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Alan Riley, Mar 12, 2009

In the run up to the Commission’s reform of its vertical restraints legislation, the advisers of luxury brands and the online retailers are busily slugging it out. Arguments are traded on free riding and the scope of the single market objective, claims are made as to who is the most pro-consumer. However, above the din of battle in the antitrust silo an enormous paradigm shift is taking place which is likely to render this technical dispute largely irrelevant. Already before the economic crisis consumer reaction to technology had begun to raise questions as to whether selective distribution systems could legitimately apply online. Now with the economic crisis, the market paradigm underpinning a view of the application of competition law has collapsed. Out of the wreckage we will see a different paradigm rising.

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