- Leaders of Europe's direct marketing industry are calling for reform of the continent's chaotic sales promotion laws, which they claim pose a serious threat to their business.
Unless the EU brings some order to the rules, European companies will find it increasingly difficult to compete against rivals from outside the Community, they say.
The call follows a survey into sales promotion legislation across Europe by the Federation of European Direct Marketing Associations and the European Magazine Publishers Association.
Its verdict is that rules vary so widely from country to country that they are seriously distorting trade within the EU.
Carel Rog, FEDMA's chairman, commented: "Some sales promotion rules and regulations are extremely restrictive -- there are even bans on certain types of sales promotion in some countries -- while others are relatively loose, or apply different rules for different types of promotion in the same country."
He added: "There is no consistency and, in many cases, laws remain in place to protect entrenched competitors. This neither benefits the consumer, nor business in general."
Germany's highly restrictive rules, many of which have their origins in the depression era of the Thirties, have come in for particularly strong criticism. Polygram, the Dutch CD producer, and Air Miles, are among major companies unable to gain a foothold in the country because of a rule forcing advertisers to disclose the value of any premium offered on a product.
An Air Miles spokesman said: "We are being denied access to a major international market by laws over which EU rules should take precedence."
Lionel Stanbrook, the Advertising Association deputy director-general, said: "There's a feeling in Germany that sales promotion is inherently unfair to rival companies."