Serbian competition authority continues its focus on RPM in e-commerce space

The Serbian Commission for Protection of Competition continues its RPM chasing spree. It has opened on 1 February 2023 yet another investigation into an alleged RPM practice, this time against Valliant, Serbian distributor of “Valliant” and “Protherm” heating equipment.

The Commission has based its suspicion of RPM on its observation that the retailers selling  “Valliant” and “Protherm” equipment have posted identical retail prices on their websites which retail prices were identical to the retail prices advertised on Valliant’s own website. In the procedural order launching the investigation, the Commission emphasized that Valliant has put retail prices on its own website even though it is not active in retail of the relevant equipment. The authority apparently understood retail prices displayed on Valliant’s website as more than just a recommendation to retailers. It has not (yet) included any of the retailers into the investigation.

Last year, the Serbian Commission fined two wholesalers of electronic consumer goods, as well as several of their retailers, for RPM (Roaming Electronics and Comtrade cases). In those cases, the Commission detected that online prices of certain products sold by different retailers were identical or almost identical. It also established that the retailers’ websites facilitated the policing of compliance with recommended prices, which policing was pursued not only by the relevant wholesaler but also by other retailers selling the same product.

It remains to be seen what evidence of the alleged RPM practice, if any, the Commission gathered during the dawn raid it performed on Valliant premises and whether the alleged RPM was restricted to online sales. It is, however, clear that the Serbian competition authority will continue to supervise online sales channel. The retailers’ websites allow easy policing of compliance with recommended retail prices, but they are also an authority’s starting point for investigation of suspected RPM in the online retail space.