Berlin -- Recticel has been fined EUR8.2m (US10.8m) for price-fixing one of its mattress ranges from July, 2005 until December, 2009.
Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, the Bundeskartellamt, imposed the fine after finding Recticel had forced retailers to sell mattresses at the price Recticel set or higher.
The Schlaraffia range, which comprises foam and sprung mattresses, is one of Belgian foamer Recticel’s registered brands.
Bundeskartellamt president Andreas Mundt said: "Retailers are allowed to set the price they want for a certain product. Manufacturers can issue non-binding price recommendations but they may not oblige their retailers to comply with set retail prices or even pressurise them to acheve a certain price level, for example by threatening to stop supplies.
“The prohibition of resale price maintenance came into force in the 70s and yet we are still receiving complaints from various economic sectors,” added Mundt.
According to the organisation, there was a general agreement between the manufacturer and retailers to maintain the minimum sales prices set for strategic products. Whenever a retailer failed to observe the price maintenance and other retailers complained, renewed discussion was held with the retailer to induce him to raise the price. Both over-the-counter and online sales were affected, especially the latter, which saw an increase during the period.
As a reaction to the online sales, Recticel offered selected online dealers the opportunity to advertise themselves as so-called “authorised Schlaraffia online dealers” using Recticel’s logo and data, provided they offered prices which were not lower than the minimum sales prices for the strategic product lines. Infringements were to be penalised by barring the dealer from Google Adwords and EBAY by claiming unauthorised use of the manufacturer’s data. Some retailers were also threatened they would suffer supply delays or legal steps if they did not conform.
Proceedings against three other manufacturers are ongoing.
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