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AIM welcomes European Parliament’s call to address retail alliances’ unfair behaviours

Press release, Brussels, 9 June 2021 The Plenary of the European Parliament adopted yesterday its annual own-initiative report on EU competition policy setting out its policy recommendations for the European Commission in the area.

AIM, the European Brands Association, applauds the European Parliament’s strong call “on the Commission to continue its in-depth analysis of the extent and effect of buying alliances, thereby devoting special attention to guaranteeing fair competition and greater transparency in supermarket and hypermarket chains’ commercial practices, particularly where such practices affect brand value and product choice or limit innovation or price comparability.

The abusive behaviour of European retail alliances in their role as gatekeepers determining access to, and the proper functioning of, EU markets is an increasingly problematic issue for the EU economy.

Fair competition, both online and offline, is critical for all consumers and businesses in Europe – a “proliferation of fair trading relations”, as the European Parliament says, is exactly what we need, in all sectors of the economy. Retail alliances are gatekeepers whose behaviours range from literally taking brands off shelves (de-listing) or threatening to do so if suppliers don’t pay up. This has an anti-competitive effect on the market, the supply chain, and ultimately consumers lose out” remarked Michelle Gibbons, AIM’s Director General.

The European Parliament report welcomes the Directive on Unfair Trading Practices “as a first step to ensure fairness between operators (…) and address imbalances of bargaining power”, which AIM firmly supports, as manufacturers believe that a healthy and competitive supply chain in Europe requires a Fairness-for-All approach. However, we also call upon the European Commission to use all the tools at its disposal to ensure Fairness values are embedded across the supply chain and to prevent gatekeeper-like mechanisms such as European retail alliances from actively distorting competition on the market through behaviours such as agreeing to simultaneously delist products across EU markets. As the report highlights, “EU consumers’ interests go beyond low prices, and in line with the principles of the TFEU, also include quality, innovation, productivity, sustainability, environmental protection and the proliferation of fair trading relations.