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Even the youngest moviegoers know that the intrepid Minions love to travel in the hunt for their despicable master -- and the EU's internal borders shouldn't hold them

back. On Thursday, the European Commission fined US media giant NBCUniversal 14.3 million euros ($15.76 million) for preventing cross-border sales of Minion merchandise.

The decision effects souvenirs featuring the big-hearted yellow-domed villains as well as other properties of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast, such as Jurassic World branded toys.

"Universal's strategy to prevent traders from selling licensed products across customer groups and countries is against EU antitrust rules," Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

"Such sales restrictions undermine the very foundations of the EU Single Market and cannot be tolerated," she added.

NBCUniversal is the third company sanctioned by the European Commission for this reason.

Sanrio, the maker of the Japan's moon-faced icon Hello Kitty, was fined 6.2 million euros in July 2019.

Nike was fined 12.5 million euros a year ago for limiting the sales of shirts and scarves of football teams like FC Barcelona, Manchester United and AS Roma.

NBCUniversal secured a lower fine by cooperating with the Commission, the bloc's guardian of fair competition, in an investigation that targeted products from cups, backpacks to toys.

The case is part of the EU's ambition to make Europe truly one single market across the post-Brexit union of 27 countries and 450 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 popular merchandise across EU borders in the hunt for cheaper prices.afp