German watchdog probes sneaker sales tactics

DUESSELDORF/FRANKFURT Wed Jun 27, 2012 7:49am EDT

DUESSELDORF/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Moves by leading sporting goods companies such as Nike Inc, Adidas AG and Asics Corp to restrict sales over internet platforms like Amazon.com Inc and eBay Inc have drawn the attention of competition authorities in Germany.

The German cartel office is investigating Japanese sneaker maker Asics over its sales practices and has also received complaints about market leaders Nike and Adidas, the watchdog said on Wednesday.

Adidas and Nike don't want their sneakers to be sold via online platforms such as Amazon and eBay in order to have more control over the way they are presented.

"We want to ensure our products with a performance element are sold only by specialist retailers with the necessary training and knowledge," Adidas Chief Executive Herbert Hainer said in Warsaw last week.

"We get lots of cases where people say 'your shoes didn't make me faster'," Hainer added. "We removed Ebay and Amazon from our network because we want our products to be sold by experts."

A spokesman for Nike in Germany said it only allowed authorized retailers that fulfill certain criteria to sell its products in Europe and that Amazon and Ebay were not on that list.

The cartel office did not say who had made the complaints about the internet sales restriction but only affected parties may complain to the watchdog, meaning it is likely to be retailers who are no longer receiving stock.

German paper FTD reported that a retailer had complained to the cartel office after Asics halted deliveries of products because the retailer didn't stick to prices.

"We are looking at changes to supply conditions at Asics. Restrictions in online sales form part of this," a spokesman for the cartel office said.

Asics Germany could not immediately be reached for comment.

The office said no investigation was underway regarding the complaints against Adidas and Nike.

"We are not aware of any pending requests from the anti-trust authorities," an Adidas spokeswoman said.

(Reporting by Matthias Inverardi and Victoria Bryan; Editing by David Holmes)

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