The Directive in 1986 was the first attempt to create an EEC-wide regime governing the relationship between commercial agents and their principals. The most important element of the Directive, however, was that it introduced financial protection for agents upon termination of agreements.

Principals looking to appoint agents within Europe should beware; how should you appoint - as an agent or an employee? Which description would fit your commercial needs? Which title best protects your position on termination? If you wanted, in due course, to set up a subsidiary of your own in any particular jurisdiction, would your agent be able to claim compensation for lost future commission?

The opportunity for forum shopping inevitably arises from the varied implementation of the Directive across the EEC (now EU) Member States. Agents with wide-ranging territories can benefit from these provisions and principals need to review their arrangements to consider whether its distributors fall within the definition of agent (for the purposes of the Directive) and whether they should make alternative arrangements for the promotion of their goods abroad.

Principals may find that a sub-contract or distributorship agreement is more appropriate, as it can take the contractor’s activities outside the scope of the Directive.

This country-by-country report considers how the Directive operates in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK – 22 years on, we examine how each jurisdiction has transposed the Directive into local law and what precedents have been created.

Please click on any of the links below to view the report by country:

View the quick reference summary table