DIRECT NEWS: Germany told to reform DM rules

By JOHN TYLEE,, Friday, 24 July 1998 12:00AM

Germany is under pressure to reform its draconian direct marketing rules or face an action against it at the European Court of Justice.

Germany is under pressure to reform its draconian direct marketing

rules or face an action against it at the European Court of Justice.

The warning to the German government by the European Commission is a

huge boost to advertising lobbyists who see Germany’s restrictions as a

major obstacle in the drive towards a European single market in

commercial communications.

The restrictions are under threat as a result of an instruction to the

German government by the commission to abolish its curbs on the direct

sale of compact discs.

The ruling settles a long-standing and controversial case provoked by

the Dutch company, PolyGram, which complained to the EU about the German

rules which, it claimed, prevented it launching a CD club on its own


Under laws dating back to the 30s, companies trading in Germany are

banned from offering promotional discounts and gifts.

PolyGram had claimed these rules were unfair. It argued that, without

the option of making promotional offers to attract new customers, it was

unable to start a business in the German market.

Backing PolyGram’s claim, the commission says Germany should consider

less restrictive ways of protecting consumers over the direct marketing

of CDs and to follow the examples of France, Holland and Belgium.

The commission has given German officials two months to respond to its

ruling. If they do not, the case could be referred to the European Court

of Justice.

Advertising lobbyists, including the UK’s Advertising Association, have

been campaigning against Germany’s restrictions on direct marketing, as

well as France’s Loi Evin, which bans alcohol advertising, and the Greek

government’s severe constraints on the TV advertising of toys.

Representatives of Europe’s toy manufacturers have complained to the

European Ombudsman about the Greek restrictions, which ban toy

commercials being screened on Greek TV between 7am and 10pm.

Their letter claims the commission has allowed the restrictions to

continue unopposed for almost four years and accuses it of having

’failed administratively by its own standards’.

Lionel Stanbrook, deputy director-general of the Advertising

Association, said the PolyGram ruling, along with other protests by Air

Miles and American Express over the German laws, placed a big question

mark over them. ’I’m pleased about the decision but it only throws the

Greek and French situation into sharp relief,’ he said.

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