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Rolex fined £80 million for preventing its watches being sold online

Rolex is free to appeal the ruling, which could lead to ADs being allowed to sell online.

France’s Competition Authority, the equivalent of the US Justice Department’s Anti Trust Department, has fined Rolex €91.6 million (£80 million) for preventing its authorised dealers selling new watches online.

Rolex has a worldwide policy of only selling its watches through official jewellers’ brick and mortar stores, with online used only for marketing of new watches.

Rolex does not sell directly to consumers online or through physical stores.

The French authority rejected a defence from Rolex’s lawyers that restrictions are needed to prevent counterfeiting and parallel trade in its watches.

Rolex was cited for a decade of restrictive practices that prevent its partners from selling online.

The watchmaker successfully defended its practice of enforcing recommended retail prices for its retailers, with the authority accepting that preventing the sale of fake Rolex watches and grey market trading are legitimate commercial aims.

However, its ruling noted that Rolex’s competitors have not used the same tactics despite facing similar risks.

France’s Competition Authority opened its investigation into Rolex back in 2017 following complaings from Union de la Bijouterie Horlogerie and Pellegrin & Fils.

This led to a raid of Rolex’s French offices in 2019.

Pellegrin & Fils, a former Rolex AD, said was it had been cut from the network of partners in 2013 with no justification.

The retailer’s lawyers said the “eviction” came after it tried to convince Rolex to allow it to sell its watches online, and suggested it was signed out to make it an example to other partners to keep them in line.

Rolex has declined to comment but is free to appeal to the Paris Court of Appeal.