Rolex was fined approximately €91 million by the French Competition Authority for preventing online sales to its authorized distributors for more than ten years.

THECompetition Authority rejected Rolex France's justifications that the online ban "was justified by the need to combat counterfeiting and parallel trade."

The breaches are “serious, as they amount to closing a marketing channel, to the detriment of consumers and retailers, while the online distribution of luxury products, including watches, has grown rapidly over the past 15 years,” the regulator said in a statement Tuesday. The case had been verified by a trade association (the Union de la Bijouterie Horlogerie) and by a jeweler based in Marseille (Pellegrin & Fils).

The French authority notes that Rolex's main competitors, who run the same risks, authorize the sale of their products on the internet under certain conditions. The indicated objectives can therefore "be achieved with less restrictive means for competition", it is argued.

The fine is accompanied by an order for Rolex France to inform its retailers of the decision and publish a summary of it on its website within two months and for seven consecutive days. The decision follows complaints from the industry and searches by the authorities.

This is only first instance which will most likely be followed by an appeal, unless Rolex France wants to negotiate and reach an agreement.

Rolex has currently declined to comment on the decision.