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German brassware manufacturer Dornbracht has lost a court case against etailer Reuter over its online trading policy, which the judge ruled as anti-competitive.
Reuter sued Dornbracht and managing director Andreas Dornbract for damages at the Cologne District Court and then at the Intermediate Court of Appeal in Dusseldorf over unreasonably high pricing and loss of sales.
The etailer was awarded damages amounting to €800,000, as a consequence of inferior terms of purchase. Reuter also claimed compensation for loss of sales; however this was rejected along with the etailer’s claim for a further €1.6million.
According to Reuter, Dornbracht granted special discounts to retailers who did not sell Dornbract products online.
Managing Director of Reuter, Bernd Reuter commented. "Now it is confirmed by the Court of Appeal that Dornbracht has harmed us. Our customers also had to suffer the delivery blockades. We have always stressed that we appreciate Dornbracht products. What we reject, however, is Dornbracht's attempt to suppress price transparency and to combat Internet commerce. Consumers want easy, convenient shopping at any time - the professional online trading meets these requirements."
Dornbracht introduced its specialist retail agreement in 2008, which it stated was to safeguard its interest in collaborating with specialist retailers and it was judged to be competitively safe. Following a case report from the Federal Cartel Office, the specialist retail agreement was adapted in 2011, in consultation with the authorities, and there have been no further complaints.
Dornbract believes expert advice and planning in the property are particular aspects that can only be covered by local retailers in collaboration with professional trades. It also holds the view offering advice over the phone, as advertised by online trading, is purely sales advice.
In a statement given to the press, Dornbracht stated it does not agree with the ruling, but has noted it: “The Iserlohn-based family company will continue to consider the extent to which the judgement leaves room for future measures to protect the company’s interests as a premium supplier and the associated interests of its stationary retail and trade partners operating locally.”
Reuter was established in 1986 and its first showroom for plumbing products opened the same year. It now has two showrooms in Monchengladbach and Freiburgh. It started its online business in 2004 and the company employs 250 people.