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Anti-Competitive Effects of Vertical Restraints:

EU Guidelines and Impact on Online Distribution Networks

Zia Akhtar


Vertical agreements can be defined as the relationship between firms that trade with each other along a chain that moves upstream to downstream. In its approach, the European Union (EU) maintains a blacklisted group of hardcore restraints which are seen as more problematic than others, notably the resale price maintenance and the absolute territorial protection. The EU Block Exemption Regulation is the main regulatory framework in place and the Vertical Guidelines 2010 provide more detailed indications for firms who enter into distribution agreements. In this article the pro- and anti-competitive aspects of vertical restraints will be considered and reasons set out as to the divergence between EU competition law and the United States antitrust laws whose main goal is consumer welfare rather than the creation of a single market. The author calls for a more flexible market for online distribution to be effected for both physical trade and e-commerce. The substantive focus of the article is on the most recent developments in competition law and priorities of the EU, and on ways for vertical restraints to achieve the goals of the European Commission with a broader framework for online distribution.

Zia Akhtar, LLB (Lon), LLM (Lon) Gray's Inn. For correspondence: <>.


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