#HelloKitty – EU Commission fines merchandiser €6.2 million for breaching competition rules

| July 9, 2019

The European Commission announced they fined Sanrio, the Japanese owner of the intellectual property of Hello Kitty, €6.2 million for restricting cross-border sales of merchandise within the European Economic Area, writes David Kunz.

After a nearly two year investigation, the European Commission concluded that Sanrio was not complying to EU competition rules by blocking retailers from selling their merchandise in specific countries. “In particular,” said Commission spokesperson Ricardo Cardoso, “there were direct and indirect measures which were meant to prevent the traders from selling across their borders.”

Sanrio’s fine was reduced by 40% due to cooperation with the Commission throughout the investigation. The company provided information to the Commission to carry out the investigation as well as “expressly acknowledged the facts and the infringements of EU competition rules.”

Sanrio had been practicing this for 11 years, but now all European consumers have equal rights to purchase the “anthropomorphic cat girl.” Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that Sanrio’s prior practices “leads to less choice and potentially higher prices for consumers and is against EU antitrust rules.”

The Commission opened the investigation in June of 2017, where it also examined the distribution practices of Nike and Universal Studios. In March 2019, Nike was fined €12.5 million and there has been no verdict for Universal Studios.

Furthermore, Cardoso said that “when we look at a competition case, we never consider the flags of the countries involved,” and there are no ramifications for the Japan-EU trade deal because of this investigation.

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