BERLIN—Recticel S.A. has been fined $10.8 million 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 the Belgian foamer Recticel's registered brands.
“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 pressurize them to achieve a certain price level, for example by threatening to stop supplies,” said Bundeskartellamt president Andreas Mundt
“The prohibition of resale price maintenance came into force in the '70s, and yet we are still receiving complaints from various economic sectors,” Mundt added.
According to the organization, a general agreement between the manufacturer and retailers existed to maintain the minimum sales prices set for strategic products. Whenever a retailer failed to observe 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 online sales, Recticel offered selected online dealers the opportunity to advertise themselves as so-called “authorized Schlaraffia online dealers” using Recticel's logo and data, provided they offered prices that were not lower than the minimum sales prices for the strategic product lines. Infringements were to be penalized by barring the dealer from Google Adwords and Ebay by claiming unauthorized use of the manufacturer's data. Some retailers were threatened they would suffer supply delays or legal steps if they did not conform.
Proceedings against three other manufacturers are ongoing.