A senior British lawyer with close links to this country’s watch industry believes that dawn raids of luxury watch retailers in France last week are likely to have been gathering evidence of anti-competitive business practices by brands rather than the retailers themselves.
The partner of a City of London-based law firm, who asked not to be named, said it was unlikely authorities in France were looking for evidence of collusion between retailers, and are more likely to be investigating whether watch brands and their distributors are breaking competition laws.
The General Rapporteur of the Autorité de la Concurrence, the agency that investigates anti-competitive practices in France, carried out a number of raids on luxuy watch retailers in the country last week (january 21). None of the retailers have been named.
A statement from the Autorité de la Concurrence said that “unannounced inspections have been carried out in the luxury watch retail sector”.
The statement continued: “Following authorisation from the liberty and custody judge, the investigation services of the Autorité de la Concurrence have raided yesterday the premises of companies suspected of having engaged in possible anti-competitive practices in the luxury watch retail sector. Such interventions do not, of course, pre-suppose the existence of a breach of the law which could be imputed to the companies involved in the alleged practices, which only a full investigation into the merits of the case could establish, if appropriate.”
The news follows the publishing of a new EU directive, Directive n° (UE) 2019/1. which sets out to empower the competition authorities of EU member states to be more effective enforcers and to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market.
The lawyer speaking to WatchPro today said that it was common for investigations based on European Union laws in one member country to be taken up by authorities in other member states.
There are no live cases on the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority website that relate to the luxury retail or watch industries.