Good news for online bargain hunters


EU regulators launched a series of probes Thursday against firms that allegedly block online bargain hunters from grabbing good deals from across European Union borders.

Video game companies, electronic manufacturers and tour operators were all targeted by the European Commission, the EU’s anti-trust enforcer.

It accuses the companies of preventing consumers from enjoying cheaper prices available to shoppers that surf the web from other EU nations.

“We are looking into whether these companies are breaking EU competition rules by unfairly restricting retail prices or by excluding customers from certain offers because of their nationality or location,” said the EU’s Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in a statement.

In the first of three separate cases, the EU turned on video game providers such as Japan’s Namco and Capcom.

They are accused of illegally using an anti-piracy verification software to in fact block cross-border purchases of popular video games.

In the second case, the EU alleges that four consumer electronics manufacturers — including Japan’s Pioneer and Dutch firm Philips — illegally restrict online platforms such as Amazon from setting their own prices.

The EU is also looking into reports by consumers that Europe’s largest tour operators — including Kuoni, TUI and Thomas Cook — collude with Spain’s mega-hotel chain Melia to rig prices based on a customer’s location.

The probes are part of a far wider digital market strategy that aims to tear down cross-border barriers online so that companies treat shoppers from anywhere in the EU as domestic buyers.

The European Commission strongly believes in the economic benefits of a proper digital single market across all 28 bloc countries, especially at a time when the EU is facing economic fragmentation with Brexit.

At the moment, only 15 percent of consumers shop from another EU country and only seven percent of small businesses sell across borders, EU figures showed.