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Rolex successfully defended its practice of enforcing recommended retail prices; however, France’s Autorite de la Concurrence rejected a claim that restrictions on digital sales are required to prevent counterfeiting. | Source: Rolex
Rolex successfully defended its practice of enforcing recommended retail prices; however, France’s Autorite de la Concurrence rejected a claim that restrictions on digital sales are required to prevent counterfeiting. | Source: Rolex

Rolex hit with staggering fine by competition authority

Watch industry juggernaut Rolex has been fined €91.6 million ($AU149.2 million) by France’s competition authority for preventing authorised dealers from selling new watches online.

Rolex has a worldwide policy of selling its new watches through physical stores, with online channels to be used exclusively for marketing.

“They amount to closing a marketing channel, to the detriment of consumers and retailers, when the online distribution of luxury products, including watches, has been booming over the past 15 years,” the regulator said in a statement.

The watchmaker successfully defended its practice of enforcing recommended retail prices; however, France’s Autorité de la Concurrence rejected a claim that restrictions on digital sales are required to prevent counterfeiting.

"While the Autorité does not dispute the legitimacy of these objectives, it found that prohibiting online selling is not a proportionate measure. It points out that Rolex’s main competitors, who themselves face this type of risk, have implemented (primarily technological) solutions to reconcile online selling with the fight against counterfeiting and off-network sales," the statement continues.

"In addition, Rolex, in conjunction with one of its retailers, has developed a programme for the online purchase of pre-owned watches, whose authenticity it guarantees. An absolute ban on the online selling of its products cannot therefore be justified."

In December 2022, the Swiss watch manufacturer confirmed plans to issue certificates of authenticity to authorised dealers selling second-hand watches. The rollout of this program began in May 2023. 

“France’s Competition Authority opened its investigation into Rolex back in 2017 following complaints from Union de la Bijouterie Horlogerie and Pellegrin & Fils. This led to a raid of Rolex’s French offices in 2019,” writes Rob Corder of WatchPro.

“Pellegrin & Fils, a former Rolex authorised dealer, said 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.”

The fine comes with an order for Rolex to inform its retailers of the decision and to publish a summary on its website.

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Watch industry shocked: Rolex acquires Bucherer
Rolex launches second-hand certification program, records shattered in Geneva

 











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