The final cost of goods on display needs to be readily apparent to customers. According to a recent ruling of the Oberlandesgericht (OLG) Hamm [Higher Regional Court of Hamm], quoting only part of the price constitutes a violation of competition law.
The instant case before the Oberlandesgericht Hamm concerned an exhibition piece at a furniture store. The store had furnished a set of couches with a price tag featuring a notice stating that accessories were available for delivery in return for payment of an extra charge. The exhibited items pertaining to the set were listed on the back of the price tag with unit prices. This resulted in a substantial increase in the price of the furniture on display.
An association dedicated to combatting unfair competition took legal action against this, arguing that this price labelling was in breach of competition law. It demanded that the exhibitor refrain from labelling the goods on display with prices that do not match the final cost.
The action was successful. In its ruling of March 21, 2017, the OLG Hamm held that the price labelling in question contravened competition law and violated the so-called “Preisangabenverordnung” [Price Quotation Ordinance] (Az.: 4 U 166/16). The Court ruled that pursuant to the Ordinance the vendor had been obligated to quote total price of the exhibition piece, as the furniture store had made a variant offer in its exhibition rooms concerning the fittings, which appeared to consumers to represent a uniform portfolio of services. The notice stating that accessories were available for delivery in return for payment of an extra charge was said not to change this fact. On the contrary, this notice could be understood by consumers to mean that further accessories above and beyond those featured in the variant offer were available for delivery.
The Court went on to say that the furniture store had been obliged to quote the final cost of the piece of furniture on display, concluding that it was not enough to refer to additional sums on the back of the price tag and thus leave the customer having to calculate the final cost for himself.
We at GRP Rainer Rechtsanwälte wish to point out that pursuant to the Preisangabenverordnung a vendor of goods or services is obligated in price quotations directed at consumers to include VAT plus any additional price components in the total price. In other words, the customer needs to be able to immediately identify how much purchasing the goods would cost him.
Violations of competition law may be met with sanctions, including formal written warnings, injunction suits or claims for damages. Lawyers who are versed in the field of competition law can fend off or enforce claims arising from a violation of competition law.