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Consumer goods

Overview

Consumer goods are items you buy for yourself or your home. This means products like clothing and footwear; detergents, cosmetics and perfumes; household appliances; watches and clocks; furniture; musical instruments; sports goods; toys and tools.

If competition in the consumer goods sector is weak, people are directly affected through reduced choice, higher prices and limited innovation. So, the European Commission aims to safeguard competition for the benefit of consumers.

The Commission's Directorate-General for Competition has investigated a range of cases involving various products in this sector, both under Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) (restrictive business practices) and Article 102 TFEU (abuse of dominant position).

Because these goods are typically products that are sold through a long, vertical supply chain with many actors (manufacturer – importer – distributor – retailer), the Commission is often called upon to ensure that the ways in which these goods finally find their way to the consumer, adhere to the principles of free competition. Restrictions on actors in the supply chain at any level (such as exclusive dealing obligations or the imposition of resale prices) may limit competition in an unjustifiable way and may therefore infringe Article 101 TFEU. For more details, see our page on restrictions in vertical agreements.

In other cases, an actor in the supply chain may have a dominant position and seek to abuse that dominant position by hindering competitors or by imposing unreasonable obligations on suppliers or customers. In such cases, that actor may be infringing Article 102 TFEU. See for instance the cases of Intel and of Motorola.

In recent years the Commission has also taken on several cartels covering consumer goods, such as rechargeable batteries and paper envelopes.

See also the speech "Competition for a Fairer Society", delivered by Commissioner Vestager and the speech "Tackling the issues that matter to consumers", delivered by Director General Johannes Laitenberger on behalf of Commissioner Vestager in 2016.