The Court of Appeal has upheld the CMA’s decision that a ban on selling golf clubs online is a serious breach of competition law.
In a judgment handed down on 21 January the Court dismissed an appeal by the golf club manufacturer Ping concerning its longstanding policy banning its authorised retailers from selling its golf clubs over the internet. In a 2017 decision the CMA found that the ban was a restriction of competition by ‘object’ – i.e. a measure that was so inherently likely to harm competition that it was unnecessary to prove any actual effects – and therefore an infringement of both EU and domestic competition law. That decision was upheld by the Competition Appeal Tribunal in 2018 and the Tribunal’s judgment has now been upheld by the Court of Appeal.
The Court’s judgment provides important guidance on the meaning of ‘object’ infringements and suggests that when applying competition law the domestic courts will not look kindly on attempts to restrict the ability of retailers to sell over the internet. Such an approach is consistent with the approach taken so far by the European Commission and the EU Court of Justice.