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Nike, Sanrio, Universal Studios face EU probe over online sales

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EU antitrust regulators have opened investigations into whether Nike, Comcast's Universal Studios and Hello Kitty owner Sanrio illegally block some cross-border sales or ban certain online retailers from selling their products.

[BRUSSELS] EU antitrust regulators have opened investigations into whether Nike, Comcast's Universal Studios and Hello Kitty owner Sanrio illegally block some cross-border sales or ban certain online retailers from selling their products.

The European Commission, announcing the investigations on Wednesday, did not provide details of the suspected illegal sales practices.

However, the move follows a year-long inquiry by the EU competition authority into e-commerce practices by 1,900 companies in Europe, part of a broader strategy to boost online trade and economic growth.

The inquiry found that some companies allow their products to be sold online only by pre-selected distributors while others use pricing restrictions and even online sales bans to block certain sellers.

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"We are going to examine whether the licensing and distribution practices of these three companies may be denying consumers access to wider choice and better deals in the single market," European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

Nike is the licence rights holder for Barcelona soccer club merchandise, while Sanrio owns the Hello Kitty brand, which adorn items ranging from stationery to clothing. Universal Studios holds the rights for movies such as Minions and Despicable Me.

The new investigations would cover similar issues to those of the e-commerce inquiry, but also include licensing of rights and offline distribution. "They complement the sector inquiry and other pending investigations in so far as they aim to tackle potential barriers to online and offline cross-border trade," a Commission spokesman said, adding that the case had been brought by the EU executive rather than following a complaint.

In February EU antitrust regulators opened three investigations into online sales of consumer electronics makers, video game makers and hotels.

Last week the EU announced a probe into US clothing company Guess's cross-border distribution deals. Companies can face fines of up to 10 per cent of their global turnover if found guilty of breaking EU antitrust rules.

REUTERS

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