Dealers and manufacturers of musical instruments have to pay fines amounting to millions because of price fixing and price fixing agreements. According to the Bundeskartellamt, fines totalling around 21 million euros were imposed on the companies and their responsible employees. The manufacturers were charged with vertical price fixing and the dealers with horizontal price fixing in several cases.
The dealers in question are Thomann GmbH and Music Store Professional GmbH. The manufacturers, or their distribution companies, are Yamaha Music Europe GmbH, Roland Germany GmbH and Fender Musical Instruments GmbH. The proceedings were initiated in April 2018.
Manufacturers enforced minimum prices!
According to the Bundeskartellamt, there had been agreement between the manufacturers of musical instruments and the retailers to implement the manufacturers’ minimum price specifications. When Thomann and Music Store had fallen below the minimum prices, responsible employees of Yamaha, Roland and Fender had contacted the dealers several times and asked them to adjust their prices. These adjustments were then also made.
“In isolated cases, sanctions such as a delivery stop or a reduction in conditions were threatened or imposed. For some of the products, on the other hand, there was no or only sporadic enforcement or monitoring of the specified minimum prices,” the Cartel Office” said.
Thomann and Music Store had, however, also demanded that other instrument dealers comply with the minimum prices by complaining to the manufacturers. In addition, there had also been indications of price agreements between the two dealers. In 13 cases, there had been agreements on price increases for individual musical instruments or complementary products.
“For years, manufacturers and dealers of musical instruments have systematically worked to restrict price competition vis-à-vis end consumers,” explained Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt. “With the fines imposed, the Bundeskartellamt is sending a clear signal not only to the companies concerned but also to the entire musical instrument sector that infringements of the ban on fixed prices and price fixing will not be tolerated.”
The manufacturers and dealers had cooperated extensively with the Bundeskartellamt in clarifying the agreements – this circumstance had been taken into account when setting the fines. The proceedings were finally concluded by amicable termination.