On 22 January 2015, the German competition authority (Bundeskartellamt) imposed a fine of EUR225,000 on SodaStream for abusing its dominant position in the market for refilling the CO2 cartridges used with its soda makers. This is an interesting case for companies which operate in similar types of markets, including markets for spare parts.
A 2008 German court judgment had found that hindering competitors from refilling CO2 cartridges represented an abuse of SodaStream’s dominant position, since this behaviour prevented consumers from taking advantage of alternative refilling possibilities. The company modified its behaviour. However, the Bundeskartellamt has now found that the company's warning and safety instructions as well as disclaimers of warranties still gave customers and business partners the impression that SodaStream was exclusively entitled to refill the cartridges.
One example of this was SodaStream indicating that empty cartridges should be returned to the company itself or its authorised dealers. In addition, in one note it stated that unauthorised refilling could be illegal.
In addition to being fined, SodaStream has undertaken to correct the texts disputed by the Bundeskartellamt and for three years will attach a label to its CO2 cartridges stating that they can also be refilled by other companies that comply with the relevant legal provisions.