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Organic supplier Alnatura wins in court against dm pharmacy chain

Fri, 16 Dec 2016 | By NNA staff

In the latest round of the bitter dispute between organic pioneers Alnatura and dm, a court has ruled that dm cannot stop Alnatura suppling other supermarkets. dm will also have to repay a substantial sum in unpaid profit margin.


DARMSTADT (NNA) – In the multiple disputes between the German organic brand Alnatura and the giant dm pharmacy chain, Alnatura has won another victory in court. The case has drawn particular media attention because the founders of both businesses are anthroposophists and related by marriage.

In the latest development, Darmstadt regional court ruled in favour of Alnatura in a dispute which saw dm try to prevent the organic producer and distributor from entering into cooperation agreements with other food and pharmacy retail chains and also reduced payments for deliveries it had received.

dm claimed it had sole rights under an exclusivity agreement but the court sided with Alnatura which had argued that it was no longer bound by that agreement once dm started to develop its own organic brand and to take Alnatura products off the shelves. As a result Alnatura terminated the agreement in 2014.

The court also agreed with Alnatura that as a result of many years of custom and practice between the parties the company was entitled to a profit margin from the products sold in dm stores. The pharmacy chain had argued that Alnatura was merely due payment as a service provider and had deducted the relevant amounts in 2012/13. As a result of the judgement Alnatura can now demand repayment of 2.345 million euros including interest.

Totally unnecessary

Alnatura expressed its satisfaction about the outcome of the case and that the court had dismissed dm’s action in full. “We very much regret that this legal dispute occurred at all. It was totally unnecessary and very unpleasant for everyone involved,” Alnatura told NNA.

dm CEO Erich Harsch told the newspaper Handelsblatt that the company would study the judgement carefully before deciding how to proceed. An appeal against the judgement is possible.

But this, in any case, is not the end of the dispute between these pioneers of organic retailing in Germany. A separate action, due to be heard in early February before Frankfurt higher regional court, will deal with the question whether dm founder Götz Werner – and with him the founder of the chain of tegut supermarkets, Wolfgang Gutberlet – can lay claim to the Alnatura brand rights.

The dispute centres around an undated agreement between the former friends Götz Werner und Alnatura founder Götz Rehn, apparently from May 1985 according to Handelsblatt. In it they set out their common goal to strive for a “humanisation of economic life on the basis of the anthroposophical socio-organic approach developed by Dr. Rudolf Steiner”.

To this end they intended to produce goods “which benefit people” and come from “controlled organic agriculture”.

If Alnatura loses, it means to all intents and purposes the end of Rehn’s business.

END/nna/ung/cva

Item: 161216-01DE Date: 16 December 2016 

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