The Adidas Group has confirmed that the selective distribution agreements it implemented from the start of this year in Germany were under investigation by the Bundeskartellamt, the German antitrust authorities. Disclosed last summer, these agreements call for the group's retail partners to provide a quality retail environment for Adidas products and to refrain from selling them on open electronic marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay.
The Bundeskartellamt already launched an investigation into such agreements by Asics in 2011 and it turns out that it also started an inquiry involving the Adidas Group last September. The anti-cartel organization confirmed that it had also received complaints about similar restrictions put in place by Nike and other brands, but it picked Asics and Adidas for pilot investigations. They are studying the impact of restrictions that are slightly divergent between the two companies.
Adidas's new trading terms for retail partners have been implemented in Germany since the start of this year, but the company has already been closely watching sales through third-party websites in other countries. The company occasionally buys products on such marketplaces itself, to check their product numbers and trace them back to the retailers who bought them in the first place.
Adidas said that it had meticulously studied the legal situation before it published its new trade conditions last summer, so it was confident that they complied with the rules. The Bundeskartellamt said it remained entirely unclear when the investigation could be completed, but it pointed out that both the Asics and Adidas cases were in an administrative procedure: This means that the organization could force the two companies to change their trading terms if it found that they unfairly hampered competition, but it would not impose any fines.