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Parliamentary questions
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7 July 2016
E-003761/2016(ASW)
Answer given by Ms Vestager on behalf of the Commission
Question reference: E-003761/2016

Buying alliances of distributors have been discussed regularly over the last two years by competition authorities through meetings of the Food Subgroup of the European Competition Network (ECN). Buying alliances can have pro-competitive effects provided there is downstream competition, and this is supported both by recent work by the European Central Bank(1) and the Commission's Modern Retail Study(2). However, buying alliances sometimes group retailers that are direct competitors in their sales to consumers and this can lead to higher prices and less choice, as has been found by some National Competition Authorities (NCAs) in recent antitrust cases. The ECN will continue to assess the matter.

The Commission and NCAs are very active in enforcing competition law to ensure that all the different levels of the food supply chain remain competitive. Competition creates incentives to innovate and increase choice, which is an important way for operators in the supply chain to obtain value. Competition rules allow joint investment by operators in processing and downstream production facilities, leading these operators to capture value down the chain. Finally, farmers can gain scale and efficiency through producer organisations providing support services (such as procurement, storage or distribution) and obtain as a consequence better revenues from sales of agricultural products.

(1)http://www.ecb.europa.eu/pub/pdf/scpwps/ecbwp1744.en.pdf
(2)http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sectors/agriculture/retail_study_report_en.pdf

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