The Polish Competition Authority (“PCA”) has opened an investigation into the market practices of the exclusive distributor of the Scott bicycle brand in Poland. That’s another investigation into the marketing of bikes in Poland.
PCA suspects online sales restrictions
The PCA suspects that, while distributors were allowed to post offers on their websites, when a potential customer wanted to make a purchase online, they were redirected to a bricks-and-mortar store. Such an alleged arrangement de facto prevented distributors from selling bikes online.
A dawn raid conducted by the PCA at the Scott offices in Poland revealed that Scott Sportech Polska was monitoring whether distributors were complying with the arrangements and intervening when they tried to sell bikes online.
According to the PCA, “The effect of the prohibition on online sales may have been to divide the market. Distributors did not have to compete for customers with competitors across the country, but only with those close to the location of their own store. At the same time, having to travel a long distance to buy equipment in a traditional store may have discouraged consumers from buying best-for-you and cheaper bikes”.
Thus, in the view of the PCA, the questioned practice may have limited competition between distributors of Scott bikes to a narrow area, or even have eliminated competition if there was only one distributor in a certain territory.
If the alleged practices are confirmed, Scott Sportech Polska could face a fine of up to 10% of its annual turnover.
PCA targets banning bicycle online sales
The Scott case is another example of recent PCA activities targeting online sales restrictions. That case is also not the first in which the PCA has questioned bicycle distribution systems. In 2023, the authority announced that it was imposing a fine of PLN 2.5 million (approx. EUR 530,000) on Merida Polska for restricting online sales and causing an actual territorial division of the market.
Merida’s distributors could advertise bicycles online but were not allowed to ship them. Instead, customers were required to collect their purchases from physical stores, effectively making online sales impossible.
Previously, in 2021, as a result of another PCA intervention, Trek Bicycle Corporation voluntarily amended its distribution policy and stopped restricting its distributors’ territories and distribution channels (such as online marketplaces). In the end, Trek avoided having to pay a penalty for antitrust violations.