March 20, 2020 / 2:40 PM / 12 days ago

EU regulators target EssilorLuxottica deal impact in Britain, Italy

FILE PHOTO: Ray-Ban sunglasses logo, a Luxottica brand, is seen in Milan, Italy January 23, 2017. REUTERS/ Stefano Rellandini/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators are focusing on the impact of Ray-Ban maker EssilorLuxottica’s (ESLX.PA) 7.2 billion euro ($7.7 billion) bid for Dutch opticians group GrandVision (GVNV.AS) in Italy and Britain, according to an EU document seen by Reuters.

The European Commission, which opened a full-scale investigation on Feb. 6, is concerned that the deal could push up prices or reduce choice for consumers.

Retailers and rival lens makers have similarly voiced worries, sources have told Reuters. EssilorLuxottica’s eyewear and retail brands include Oakley, Sunglass Hut and Spectacle Hut.

GrandVision’s chains include Vision Express in Britain and For Eyes in the United States and it also sells brands including Varilux lenses and Ray-Ban sunglasses.

In a 39-page questionnaire sent to independent opticians, the EU watchdog wanted to know how they compete with EssilorLuxottica and GrandVision in Italy and Britain in terms of competitive prices, portfolio of eyewear, location and their positioning in terms of price and quality.

The Commission also asked if EssilorLuxottica, formed last year from the merger of French lens maker Essilor and Italian eyewear group Luxottica, uses its market power to strike a better commercial deal with independent opticians.

Retailers were asked whether data they transmitted to EssilorLuxottica gave the company an advantage.

The EU halted its investigation into the case on March 2 while waiting for the companies to provide requested information.

“The Commission understands the challenges that companies might face due to the extremely challenging current context around COVID -19,” a spokeswoman said.

Reporting by Louise Heavens

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