Brussels, 16 July 2003
Commission fines Yamaha for restrictions of trade and resale price maintenance in Europe
The European Commission has decided to impose a fine of € 2.56 million on musical instruments manufacturer Yamaha for restricting trade within the European single market and fixing resale prices in certain EU countries for such products as pianos, guitars and oboes. Although the restrictions were of a serious nature, they seemed to be limited to certain dealers, products and countries rather than the result of a deliberate strategy, and appear not to have been implemented in full. Furthermore, as soon as the Commission intervened, Yamaha took steps to end the restrictions and to redesign its European distribution system.
Yamaha sells under a selective distribution system a whole range of traditional and electronic musical instruments and equipment in Europe, such as pianos, electronic organs, guitars, saxophones and violins. The company is the European market leader for most musical instruments.
After an investigation, the Commission has concluded that Yamaha has violated European Union competition rules by entering into agreements or concerted practices aimed at partitioning the market and fixing resale prices.
Such practices had the object of restricting competition, within the meaning of Article 81(1) of the EU treaty and Article 53(1) of the European Economic Agreement, in Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark and Iceland.
The restrictions took different forms at different times and in different countries. They included obligations on official dealers to sell only to final customers; obligations on official dealers to purchase exclusively from the Yamaha subsidiaries; obligations on official dealers to contact Yamaha before exporting via the Internet; and the fixing of resale prices.
Agreements and/or restrictive practices partitioning the European market and fixing resale prices constitute a violation of EU rules, according to an extensive case law.
Although the infringement was qualified as serious, some of the contractual provisions were applied to only a limited number of dealers and products, were not systematically included in all Yamaha agreements throughout the EEA and have not been simultaneously implemented.
The fact that Yamaha terminated a majority of the restrictions as soon as the Commission intervened was also considered a mitigating circumstance.