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Goodwill Payment Claims and the Termination of Sales/Distribution Agreements in Germany

22. Februar 2018
Internationales Recht, Vertragsrecht,  

Under EU/German law, sales/commercial agents have a claim to goodwill payments (“Ausgleichsanspruch”) upon the termination of their relationship, where certain conditions are met. In Germany, this right is extended to distributors as well, where additional conditions are fulfilled. In a recent decision, the German High Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) has clarified that this right must also be extended to commission agents as well (BGH, Urteil vom 21.07.2016 – I ZR 229/15).

In light of this decision, a quick review of goodwill payment claims following the termination of distribution agreements would appear called for. Indeed, based on his years of experience practicing law in Germany, Jonathan Branch at KSB INTAX lists post-termination goodwill indemnity payments as one issue that repeatedly comes up between non-German companies and their sales agents/distributors in Germany. This is especially true where the manufacturer is originally from a non-EU country.

Checklist – Goodwill Claims upon Termination:

Whether or not a post-termination indemnity/compensation is due at the end of a sales/distribution relationship depends on a number of factors. These include:(i) the nature of the relationship between the manufacturer and its partner (for example - commercial/sales agent, distributor, commission agent, etc.) and - depending on the nature of the relationship - the degree of integration of the partner in the manufacturer’s organization;

(ii) whether or not new customers were acquired by the partner or business with existing customers expanded;

(iii) whether or not the manufacturer continues to enjoy the benefit of the business relationships listed above (the goodwill) after the termination of the relationship with the partner; and(iv) the circumstances of the termination itself.

How High is the Claim?

Where the relevant conditions are met, a post-termination indemnity payment is required in Germany under statutory law and/or case law. Determining the amount of the claim can be complicated. To at least provide some orientation, the statutory provisions for sales/commercial agents (sec. 89b of the German Commercial Code) cap the amount of this particular claim at the average annual commission payment over the past five years of the agent’s activity.

Recommendations for Best Practices:

The parties should be aware that these claims cannot be waived prior to the actual end of the agreement in question. However, the conditions themselves can and should be reviewed when drafting the agreement. At the latest, it should be clarified before termination if a payment is due. Otherwise, the parties involve risk damaging the brand, and could potentially disrupt product distribution during the transfer of existing business following notice of termination.

On the principle that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, please feel free to contact us should you have any questions about this important aspect of doing business in the EU/Germany.

Ihre Autoren

Jonathan Branch

Sozius

Rechtsanwalt

Ansprechpartner

Thomas Altendorfer

Diplom-Volkswirt, Rechtsanwalt, Steuerberater

Partner

Til Ammermann

Diplom-Kaufmann, Wirtschaftsprüfer, Steuerberater

Partner

Rechtsanwalt

Thomas Baransky

Diplom-Betriebswirt (FH), Steuerberater

Sozius

Dr. Christian Bereska

Rechtsanwalt

Partner

Rechtsanwalt

Philipp M. v. Bismarck

Rechtsanwalt, Notar

Partner

Dr. Björn Bogner

Rechtsanwalt

Sozius

Jonathan Branch

Rechtsanwalt

Sozius

Rechtsanwältin

Assoziierte Partnerin

Sabine Burghardt

Diplom-Ökonomin, Wirtschaftsprüferin, Steuerberaterin

Josie Charwat

Rechtsanwältin

Sozia

Frank Deppenkemper

Diplom-Kaufmann, Wirtschaftsprüfer, Steuerberater

Sozius

Anna Dietrich

Rechtsanwältin

Mathias Dietrich

Diplom-Finanzwirt (FH), Rechtsanwalt, Steuerberater

Sozius

Rolf Dittmar

Diplom-Ingenieur, Wirtschaftsprüfer, Steuerberater

Partner

Diplom-Kaufmann, Steuerberater

Sozius

Rechtsanwältin

Sozia

Eva Feldhaus, LL.M.

Rechtsanwältin

Hans G. Fritsche

Fachanwalt für Insolvenzrecht

Rechtsanwalt

Dr. Martin David Gerigk

Rechtsanwalt

Sascha Halbe, LL.M.

Diplom-Kaufmann, Rechtsanwalt

Partner

Maren Helm

Steuerberaterin

Miriam Henschel

Diplom-Finanzwirtin (FH), Rechtsanwältin, Steuerberaterin

Partnerin

Dimitri Immermann

Rechtsanwalt

Dr. Sabine Jehner, LL.M.

Rechtsanwältin, Attorney at Law (New York)

Sozia

Björn Knuth, LL.M.

Rechtsanwalt

Kirstin Krüger

Rechtsanwältin

Sozia

Dr. Michael Kunst

Diplom-Volkswirt, Rechtsanwalt, Wirtschaftsprüfer, Notar

Partner

Tobias Lerch

Rechtsanwalt

Monika Martyniak

Diplom-Ökonomin, Wirtschaftsprüferin, Steuerberaterin

Sozia

Jürgen Morr

Diplom-Volkswirt, Banker

Friedrich Graf zu Ortenburg, LL.M.

Rechtsanwalt

Partner

Dr. Nicolas Penner

Diplom-Finanzwirt (FH), Rechtsanwalt, Steuerberater

Partner

Antje Pietrek

Rechtsanwältin

Rechtsanwältin

Cordula Rausch

Diplom-Kauffrau, Steuerberaterin

Rechtsanwalt

Assoziierter Partner

Dr. Stephan Rose

Rechtsanwalt, Notar

Partner

Michael Rudolph

Diplom-Ökonom, Steuerberater

Sozius

Dr. Hans-J. Sallawitz

Rechtsanwalt, Wirtschaftsprüfer

Jan Schätzel

Rechtsanwalt

Dr. Ralf Schlottau

Rechtsanwalt, Notar

Partner

Dr. Stephan Schmack

Rechtsanwalt

Sozius

Dr. Hermann Schünemann

Rechtsanwalt, Notar

Partner

Dr. Philipp Schulz

Rechtsanwalt

Sozius

Valentin R. Seidenfus

Rechtsanwalt, Steuerberater

Partner

Thomas Stillahn

Rechtsanwalt

Partner

Julia Elisabeth Többens

Rechtsanwältin

Dr. Karl-Heinz Vehling

Executive MBA HSG, Rechtsanwalt

Partner

Dr. Jan-W. Vesting

Rechtsanwalt

Partner

Christiane Wehe

Diplom-Kauffrau (FH), Steuerberaterin

Albrecht Wendenburg

Rechtsanwalt, Notar a.D.

Dr. Marc Wendt

Rechtsanwalt, Notar

Partner

Dr. Tim Wittwer, LL.M.

Rechtsanwalt

Sozius

Klaus Bock v. Wülfingen

Rechtsanwalt, Notar a.D.

Christian Knoke

Rechtsanwalt, Wirtschaftsprüfer, Steuerberater

Steuerberater

Rüdiger Stöbling

Rechtsanwalt

Rechtsanwältin