The Commission`s vertical block exemption provides a safe port for certain agreements that include vertical restraints. `Safe port` means that, where an agreement fulfils the conditions for the vertical block exemption, neither the Commission, nor the competition authorities or courts of the Member States can find that the agreement is contrary to Article 101, unless a prior decision is taken (with only prospective effect) in order to `take advantage of the vertical block exemption` of the agreement. The explicit recitals of the new version of the vertical block exemption (adopted in 2010) also specify that vertical agreements (without strict restrictions) `improve production or distribution and allow consumers to benefit from an appropriate share of the benefits derived therefrom`, provided that the relevant market share thresholds are not exceeded. Parties with market shares above 40% should consider whether their vertical agreements should also be assessed from the point of view of Article 102 TFEU. If the necessary effect of trade is not established, national competition law shall apply. In general, the relevant provisions of national competition law are broad and the dominant practice applies them in accordance with the corresponding provisions of EU competition law. National derogations are of course possible, which always requires a specific revision of the national regulations in force. The vertical guidelines also deal with a supplier-specific restriction, called `exclusive supply`, which covers the situation in which a supplier agrees to deliver to only one buyer throughout the EU. The main anti-competitive effect of these agreements is the potential exclusion of competing buyers and non-competing suppliers. Therefore, the Vertical Guidelines specify that the buyer`s market share is the most important in the assessment of these restrictions. In particular, negative effects may occur when the buyer`s market share in the downstream supply market and in the upstream purchasing market is greater than 30%.
However, if the market shares of customers and suppliers are less than 30% and the exclusive supply agreements are less than five years, these restrictions benefit from the safe haven created by the vertical block exemption. The Commission`s vertical guidelines do not distinguish between the different types of internet distribution channels, but provide certain guidelines for the use of third-party platforms. The vertical guidelines indicate that, in particular in the context of selective distribution, a supplier may require buyers to use third-party platforms only in accordance with the standards and conditions agreed between the buyer and the supplier for the buyer`s use of the Internet. A provider may also require customers not to visit the buyer`s website through a site that bears the name or logo of a third-party platform when the buyer`s website is hosted by the same third-party platform. However, so far, the Commission has not taken an infringement decision on vertical restraints, distinguishing between different types of online distribution channels. However, the Commission`s ongoing investigation into consumer electronics and small household appliances may well address the differences in treatment between different types of online distribution channels (see question 32). The Commission`s investigation into Amazon`s e-book business, launched in June 2015 and completed by commitment decision in May 2017, focused on the difference in treatment between online distribution channels. This investigation focused on Amazon`s contractual rights to be informed of different or more favorable terms that publishers offer to competing online platforms and to offer you terms at least as favorable. In January 2017, the Commission opened a consultation on Amazon`s proposed commitments to end the disputed practices and the Commission formally accepted Amazon`s commitments in May 2017. . . .