On 28 November 2013, GARDENA, a manufacturer of gardening products, gave commitments to the German Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) that it will apply the same rebates to brick and mortar distributors as to online distributors. In the future, GARDENA will not make distinctions between different forms of distribution.
Following multiple complaints by online distributors, the Bundeskartellamt had initiated proceedings which it has now terminated due to GARDENA’s commitments.
The Bundeskartellamt highlighted that it currently received a variety of complaints concerning potential restraints on online distribution which make a differentiated view necessary: While manufacturers are allowed to react to the different circumstances of different distribution channels, they should be aware that they must not simply eliminate or disadvantage online distribution.
According to the Bundeskartellamt’s assessment, GARDENA’s only recently introduced rebate system discriminated against online distributors. GARDENA had applied so called “staggered functional rebates” which it finally linked to the distribution channel used for the sale of the products (brick and mortar or online). Since the functional rebates were tailored in a way to allow distributors to achieve the full rebate only via brick and mortar sales, the Bundeskartellamt considered the system a prohibited dual pricing system.