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凯蒂猫涉嫌垄断,遭遇欧盟制裁

David Meyer 2019年07月15日

欧盟委员会表示,三丽鸥的授权协议条款违反了相关规定。

中国上海,4月12日讯:Hello Kitty Shanghai Times的内景,这是全球首家以凯蒂猫和上海外滩为主题的室内乐园。图片来源:Photo by Wang Gang/VCG via Getty Images

凯蒂猫(Hello Kitty)不仅是一个深受喜爱的卡通形象和品牌现象。但这只45岁的小猫——或至少是她背后的日本公司三丽鸥(Sanrio)——可能违反了反垄断政策。

这是欧盟委员会的裁定。上周二,它以破坏欧盟竞争规则为由,对三丽鸥处以了620万欧元(合700万美元)的罚款。

欧盟的政策核心之一在于单一市场,对那些试图在欧盟成员国之间人为建立贸易壁垒的公司,它通常不会手下留情。而三丽鸥就犯了禁,公司强迫销售其授权产品的零售商不得在欧盟内进行跨国销售。

欧盟委员会表示,三丽鸥的授权协议条款违反了规定。这家公司旗下还持有美乐蒂兔(My Melody)、巧克猫(Chococat)、大眼蛙(Keroppi)等角色以及奇先生、妙小姐(Mr. Men and Little Miss)系列绘本的版权。

2008年至2018年间,三丽鸥的条款禁止授权商在本国领土之外销售商品,同时限制了在特定产品上可以使用的语言。它甚至还通过审计的方式来确保授权商遵守这些条款。

欧盟竞争事务专员玛格丽特·维斯塔格表示:“今天的决定证实了不得阻止销售授权产品的贸易商在其他国家销售产品。此举会导致减少消费者的选择,可能让他们付出更高价格,也违反了欧盟的反垄断规定。无论是购买凯蒂猫的杯子还是巧克猫的玩具,消费者如今都可以完全享受单一市场带来的主要利好之一:在欧洲以最划算的价格购买商品。”

按照欧盟委员会的话说,如果三丽鸥不“在其法律义务之外与委员会展开合作”,这笔罚款可能远不止700万美元。为此,这家日本公司的罚金减少了40%。

在本文撰写期间,三丽鸥并未回应置评请求。

这次针对三丽鸥的反垄断行动相当及时,因为很快就会有更多凯蒂猫的商品涌入欧洲。在四个月前,三丽鸥宣布与新线电影公司(New Line Cinema)达成协议,拍摄一部英语电影,按照欧盟委员会在上周二的形容,其主角是个“拟人化的猫咪女孩,她的全名叫Kitty White”。

不过,这绝非欧盟委员会的竞争总署今年针对反单一市场策略开出的最大一张罚单。今年3月,耐克(Nike)由于限制足球队有关商品的跨国销售,被罚1,250万欧元。今年5月,维斯塔格又因为百威英博(AB InBev)阻止将朱皮尔啤酒(Jupiler)从荷兰进口到比利时,以维持该啤酒在比利时的高价,而对其采取惊人的2亿欧元罚款。(财富中文网)

译者:严匡正

Hello Kitty isn’t just a much-beloved cartoon character and branding phenomenon. The 45-year-old kitten—or at least Sanrio, the Japanese company behind her—also turns out to be an antitrust violator.

That’s according to the European Commission, which on last Tuesday hit Sanrio with a €6.2 million ($7 million) fine for breaking the European Union’s competition rules.

One of the EU’s central planks is its single market, and it does not take kindly to companies that try to create artificial trading barriers between EU countries. That’s what Sanrio did here, by forcing retailers who sell its licensed products to avoid selling them across the EU’s internal borders.

Sanrio, which also holds the rights to characters such as My Melody, Chococat and Keroppi—as well as the Mr. Men and Little Miss lines—broke the rules through the terms in its licensing agreements, the Commission said.

From 2008 to 2018, the company’s terms forbade sales outside of the licensees’ national territories, and limited the languages that could be used on a particular product. It even carried out audits to make sure licensees were sticking to those terms.

“Today’s decision confirms that traders who sell licensed products cannot be prevented from selling products in a different country,” said Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “This leads to less choice and potentially higher prices for consumers and is against EU antitrust rules. Consumers, whether they are buying a Hello Kitty mug or a Chococat toy, can now take full advantage of one of the main benefits of the Single Market: the ability to shop around Europe for the best deals.”

The $7 million fine would have been much higher, had Sanrio not “cooperated with the Commission beyond its legal obligation to do so,” in the Commission’s words. The Japanese firm got a 40% discount for that.

Sanrio had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

The antitrust action against the company was rather timely, as there could soon be a lot more Hello Kitty merchandise out there. Four months ago, Sanrio announced a deal with New Line Cinema to develop an English-language movie featuring—as the Commission described her last Tuesday—the “anthropomorphic cat girl also known by her full name Kitty White.”

However, this was by no means the heftiest fine handed down by the Commission’s competition department for anti-single-market tactics this year. Nike was hit with a €12.5 million fine in March for limiting cross-border sales of soccer team merchandise, and in May Vestager whacked brewing giant AB InBev with a whopping €200 million fine for blocking imports of Jupiler beer from the Netherlands into Belgium, in order to maintain higher prices in the latter country.

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