The EU’s top anti-trust regulator today launched probes into whether Nike, Universal Studio and Sanrio’s Hello Kitty illegally blocked retailers from selling merchandise across bloc borders. The European Commission “is investigating whether Nike, Sanrio and Universal Studios are restricting cross border and online sales of merchandising products,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. “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,” she added. The probe is one of several stemming from the EU’s ambitious project to build a digital single market across the union of 28 countries and 500 million people, which as a bloc is the world’s biggest economy. The probe involves a whole range of products, such as clothes, shoes, bags or toys, which are sold featuring some of the world’s biggest brands and characters including the Minions, Hello Kitty and the Barcelona football team. In its latest effort to break down barriers in the European Union, the Commission will probe whether the companies may have broken EU competition rules by restricting a manufacturer’s or retailer’s ability to sell licensed merchandise cross-border and online.
These deals limit consumers’ ability to shop for highly popular merchandised products across EU borders in the hunt for cheaper prices. There is no deadline for the probes, and the companies may not in the end face actual anti-trust charges.