81 million euros fine for Essilor

The French Competition Authority has fined optical lens manufacturer Essilor International more than 81 million euros for discriminatory commercial practices against online eyeglass sellers, it announced on Tuesday. Essilor, from the end of April 2009 to December 2020, implemented practices “aimed at hindering the development” of online sales in France, a channel in which it was not positioned, by imposing on online sales operators restrictions in terms of deliveries, communication and guarantees, indicates the Autorité de la concurrence.

Abuse of a dominant position on the French market

Essilor- which merged with the Italian Luxottica in 2018 – is in a dominant position on the French market for the wholesale distribution of corrective lenses. The Autorité accuses it of having abused this position by implementing a policy aimed at hindering the development in France of online sales sites, first and foremost those offering a mixed or all-online offer, such as Sensee, Happyview or DirectOptic.

These practices, in a public health sector characterized by high prices, present, according to the Autorité, “a certain degree of seriousness”: the competition policeman considers that they may have favored the maintenance of the price of spectacles seen at high levels, while online sales sites offer “great competitiveness in terms of price”.

A strategy to prevent online sales sites from offering your glasses

To prevent online sales sites from offering Essilor or Varilux brand lenses (two brands belonging to it), Essilor has, since 2009, not only refused to deliver branded lenses to them, but has also prohibited them from using the Essilor brands and logos and to communicate on the origin of the lenses, accuses the Authority. Essilor has also implemented warranty limitations vis-à-vis online sales operators.

For these facts, Essilor was therefore fined 81 million euros, including 15 million euros for the parent company, EssilorLuxottica.

This is not the first time that the group has been singled out by the Competition Authority. Last year, the latter had imposed on Luxottica – which has a dominant position for frames – 125 million euros in fines in France for “serious and long-term anti-competitive practices”, preventing networks of opticians from set their prices. In 2021, EssilorLuxottica, the world leader in optics, published a turnover of almost 18 billion euros.