EU fines Hello Kitty owner for limiting online sales
The EU's top anti-trust regulator on Wednesday fined Hello Kitty owner Sanrio 6.2 million euros ($6.9 million) for illegally blocking retailers from selling merchandise across bloc borders.
"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 EU's single market: the ability to shop around Europe for the best deals," said Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
The relatively low fine came as a result of Sanrio's cooperation in the case, which was jointly launched against Nike and Universal Studio.
In March, the commission fined Nike 12.5 million euros, with no decision yet taken against Universal.
The case is part of the EU's ambition to build a digital single market across the union of 28 countries and 500 million people, which as a bloc is the world's biggest economy.
The commission is especially keen to fight companies that break EU competition rules by restricting a manufacturer's or retailer's ability to sell licensed merchandise cross-border and online.
These deals limit consumers' ability to shop for highly popular merchandised products across EU borders in the hunt for cheaper prices.
Hello Kitty, Japan's moon-faced icon of cute, has spawned a multi-billion-dollar industry since Sanrio introduced her in 1974.
The mouthless character, with her child-like hair bow and a registered height of five apples, is now found in 130 countries on more than 50,000 branded products every year, according to Sanrio.
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