03 May 2000

German legal and political intransigence in refusing to allow US-owned fashion catalog Lands’ End to advertise its unconditional consumer guarantee, has driven the direct-sell trader to lodge an official complaint with the European Commission in the hope of compelling a change in German law.

Although the German government has frequently implied it will axe the restrictions, Lands’ End is skeptical having seen a previous attempt in 1994 to revoke the law fizzle out in failure. Says Steve Bechwar, managing director of Lands’ End’s German operation: “Although the plan is to get rid of the bonus gift restrictions, this is the political goal of certain parties and we certainly can't count on that to happen in a timely fashion, if at all. We have to assume it won't, and go ahead with our plans.”

If the EC formally accepts the complaint, the German government will be required to respond within a specified period. Failure to do so will result in referral of the case to the European Court of Justice – a process that could last years.

Precision Marketing (UK)