Hello Kitty producer slapped with EU fine for restricting sales | News | DW | 09.07.2019
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Hello Kitty producer slapped with EU fine for restricting sales

Hello Kitty fans in search of the latest merchandise can now shop across the EU as they please after the bloc fined the popular character's producer, Sanrio, for restricting sales within the EU's single market.

The European Union's top anti-trust regulator on Tuesday fined Hello Kitty's  owner for illegally restricting merchandise sales across the bloc.

Sanrio, the Japanese company that licenses and produces the wildly popular Hello Kitty products, will now have to pay a fine of €6.2 million ($6.9 million).

An EU probe launched in 2017 found that Sanrio imposed direct and indirect restrictions on retailers. Some of the practices deemed illegal included prohibiting out-of-territory sales and not renewing licensing contracts if retailers did not comply.

That meant that consumers within the EU's single market couldn't shop for cheaper deals on branded mugs, toys, bags and bed sheets in other EU member-states.

"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," said Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager in a statement.

Sanrio cooperated with the probe "beyond its legal obligation to do so," the Commission said.

The EU also fined Nike €12.5 million in March for similar practices, while another case against Universal Studios is ongoing.

Sanrio also owns several other popular characters, including My Melody, Little Twin Stars, Chococat and Keroppi. It also owns intellectual property rights to the Mr. Men and Little Miss characters.

Hello Kitty, which the European Commission described as "an anthropomorphic cat girl also known by her full name Kitty White," has generated a multi-billion-dollar industry since she was introduced in 1974.

Watch video 01:38

Kitty on the railway

rs/sms (AFP, dpa)

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