The European Union ’s top antitrust regulator fined Sanrio, the Japanese company behind the popular Hello Kitty brand, 6.2 million euros (US$6.9 million) on Wednesday for restricting sales within the bloc’s single market. Sanrio designs, licences, produces and sells products featuring Hello Kitty, “an anthropomorphic cat girl also known by her full name Kitty White,” and other popular characters such as My Melody, Little Twin Stars, Keroppi and Chococat, the European Commission wrote. It also holds the intellectual property rights to the Mr Men and Little Miss characters. Merchandising products range from mugs, bags and stationery through to toys, which all bear images protected by trademarks or copyright. The commission launched an investigation in 2017 into Sanrio’s licensing and distribution products, alongside separate investigations into Nike and Universal Studios. It found on Tuesday that Sanrio had imposed direct and indirect restrictions, banning or discouraging traders from selling their merchandise in other EU countries than their own, contrary to the rules of the bloc’s single market. “Today’s decision confirms that traders who sell licensed products cannot be prevented from selling products in a different country,” said EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. “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 EU’s single market: the ability to shop around Europe for the best deals.” Google fined US$1.7 billion by EU for abusing online advertising market The relatively low fine came as a result of Sanrio’s cooperation in the case, which was jointly launched against Nike and Universal Studios. In March, the commission fined Nike 12.5 million euros (US$14 million), with no decision yet taken against Universal. The case is part of the EU’s ambition to build a digital single market across the union of 28 countries and 500 million people, which, as a bloc, is the world’s biggest economy. The commission is especially keen to fight companies that break EU competition rules by restricting a manufacturer’s or retailer’s ability to sell licensed merchandise cross-border and online. These deals limit consumers’ ability to shop for highly popular merchandised products across EU borders in the hunt for cheaper prices. Hello Kitty, Japan’s moon-faced icon of cute, has spawned a multibillion-dollar industry since Sanrio introduced her in 1974. The mouthless character, with her childlike hair bow and a registered height of five apples, is now found in 130 countries on more than 50,000 branded products every year, according to Sanrio.