Karl Lagerfeld lobbies EU on internet sales
Clothes designer Karl Lagerfeld met EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes on Wednesday (11 February) to try and persuade internal market regulators to keep current restrictions on online retailers for luxury goods.
"The visit is part of the commission's regular consultation process," competition spokesman Jonathan Todd told EUobserver.
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The spokesman explained that the EU executive was reviewing current rules which allow certain manufacturers - in this case luxury brand Chanel - to restrict online retailers from selling their goods.
Mr Lagerfeld said he was "happy with the current rules and did not wish to see a change," stressing the importance of luxury manufacturers having the right to selective distribution agreements.
The commissioner "listened carefully to his comments," says a statement issued after the meeting.
The regulation expires on 31 May 2010, but the commission intends to publish its ideas on the subject before the end of its mandate, in autumn 2009.
For her part, consumer protection commissioner Meglena Kuneva proposed in October 2008 to lift market barriers for online shopping, in order for EU citizens to benefit more from the various price differences across Europe.
But luxury brands fear that increased online exposure of their products could boost the selling of counterfeit items.
In June 2007, online selling portal eBay was ordered by a Paris court to pay €39.83 million compensation to LVMH, the French luxury goods group behind Christian Dior for allowing fake Louis Vuitton handbags, as well as perfumes and sunglasses to be sold on the Internet.
The luxury brand conglomerate told the court that in 2006, 90 percent of the LVMH-branded goods for sale on eBay were fakes.
But high-end producers have found their case hard to sell to the free market-oriented Barroso commission.
In June last year, internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy said that the best way to tackle counterfeit luxury goods was by enhancing co-operation between brands, as well as member states, rather than adopting new regulations which would be out-of-date by the time they were enacted.