Pierre Cardin and Ahlers under investigation for possible EU competition breach
The European Commission has announced it has launched a formal antitrust investigation into Pierre Cardin and its licensee the Ahlers Group. The inquiry will assess whether the duo has breached EU competition rules by restricting cross-border and online sales of Pierre Cardin products, as well as the sale of products to specific customer groups.
German clothing manufacturer Ahlers Group is the largest licensee of Pierre Cardin products in the European economic area, with the brand itself licensing its trademark for the manufacture and distribution of its products.
The investigation announcement follows an unannounced inspection in the manufacturing and distribution sector on June 22 by the commission. It has since expressed its intention to investigate whether Pierre Cardin and Ahlers have developed a strategy against parallel imports and sales to specific customer groups by enforcing certain restrictions on licensing agreements.
While the opening of an investigation does not signify an outcome, if proven, the companies’ behaviour could be found as a breach of EU competition law that forbids anti-competitive agreements between companies.
Barriers could lead to fragmentation of single market
The duration of an investigation can depend on many factors, such as complexity, company cooperation and the rights of defence, however, there is no legal deadline.
“One of the key benefits of the EU’s single market is that consumers can shop around for a better deal,” said the commission’s executive vice president, Margrethe Vestager, in the announcement. “Barriers erected to prevent parallel imports lead to undue fragmentation of the single market.”
Vestager added: “This is why we are going to investigate whether the licensing and distribution practices of Pierre Cardin and its largest licensee Ahlers may be restricting offline and online sales of consumer goods such as garments, shoes and accessories in the EU.”