Russia contemplates 'parallel imports' after top brands halt sales

March 18 (Reuters) - Russia is considering allowing retailers to import products from abroad without the trademark owner's permission, the competition regulator said on Friday, after global brands halted sales or stopped exports over its invasion of Ukraine.

Allowing "parallel imports" reflects how Russia's retail sector has been upended by Western economic sanctions and decisions by international firms like H&M HMb.ST and Nike NKE.N to restrict their activity in Russia.

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) said its head had met the director of Russia's top online retailer Wildberries where legalising parallel imports was discussed. Both sides were confident the move would be positive for consumers and Russian businesses.

FAS said it had prepared draft regulations on parallel imports - sometimes also called "grey imports" - which were being discussed by the government.

"The FAS initiative allowing parallel imports will be an effective support measure. ... Small and medium-sized businesses will be allowed to legally import foreign goods without seeking additional permissions, and the consumer will get access to a wider assortment of goods of a high quality for reasonable prices," Wildberries general director Tatyana Bakalchuk said in a statement.

"This is especially important for socially-significant goods like medicines, foodstuffs and children's products," Bakalchuk added.

Russia's government has proposed a raft of support measures to try to buttress its economy in the face of Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict. Nevertheless the Kremlin faces its most severe economic crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Reporting by Reuters

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