German Federal Cartel Office closes investigation into online sales ban required by adidas

By Gabriele Accardo and Aurelia Magdalena Goerner

On 2 July 2014 the German Federal Cartel Office (“Bundeskartellamt”) announced that it has closed proceedings against adidas AG (“adidas”), following the commitment of the sport goods manufacturer to amend the conditions required for online sales and search engine advertising.

The investigation followed numerous complaints by sports retailers. The Bundeskartellamt is currently investigating similar practices by ASICS (see Newsletter No 2/2014, p. 20 for background information).

Whilst adidas sells its products to consumers only via authorized retailers, in 2012 it included a prohibition for retailers to sell via online market places such as eBay and Amazon, as well as other platforms like Rakuten.de, Yatego.de, Hitmeister.de and meinPaket.de. In addition, adidas restricted the use of adidas brand related terms as search words for search engine advertising such as Google AdWords, thereby further limiting the possibilities of using the online channel by retailers.

adidas has now amended its conditions of sale, removing the ban on sales via online market places and has also clarified that all authorized retailers are free to use adidas brand related terms as search words for search engine advertising. From now on, adidas’ authorized retailers will be able not only to operate their own online shops but also to operate shops at online market places.

Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt stated that “…proceedings against adidas and ASICS (which have not yet been concluded) serve as test cases because currently a number of brand manufacturers are contemplating similar measures…

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