Retail headlines – Autumn 2018

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As of 6 November 2018, CAP has published new rules on the use of data for marketing, along with 5 top tips to ensure compliance.

The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Competition and Markets Authority have announced an investigation into ‘personalised pricing’ – that is, the practice of retailers charging different online shoppers different prices for the same items, depending on shoppers’ specific customer journeys and personal data (including address, marital status, birthday and travel history). The aim of the research is to protect consumers from unfair practices, as well as to address issues raised in the recent Citizen’s Advice recent super-complaint on ‘loyalty penalties’. Walker Morris will monitor and report on developments.

On 22 November 2018 the Financial Conduct Authority announced proposals to introduce a price-cap on the rent-to-own (RTO) sector which will limit the price and any credit costs that RTO retailers can charge customers for household goods such as TVs, washing machines, cookers, furniture and the like.  the consultation can be accessed here and is open until 17 January 2019.  If agreed, the proposals will come into force on 1 April 2019.

Germany’s competition agency, the Bundeskartellamt (BKartA), commenced an investigation into Amazon over suspected abuse of dominance on 29 November 2018.  Following seller complaints, BKartA is looking into whether Amazon hinders sellers who depend on the portal through its double role as retailer and marketplace.  Particular terms under scrutiny involve liability provisions to the disadvantage of sellers, in combination with choice of law and jurisdiction clauses, rules on product reviews, non-transparent termination and blocking of accounts, and withholding or delaying payment.  At the same time, whilst no official investigation has been opened, the European Commission is making enquiries into Amazon’s use of data to the disadvantage of marketplace sellers; and the French economy ministry has filed a complaint before the Paris Commercial Court and seeking a EUR 10 million fine against Amazon, for the imposition of what it says are unfair contractual restrictions and Amazon’s abuse of its dominant position. Walker Morris will monitor and report on developments.