Every local supermarket must inform its customers where the fruit and vegetables on its shelves have come from. But this is not possible with online delivery, Amazon claimed in court. And now it is paying the price. The law applies to everyone - and therefore online retailer Amazon must also inform its customers about the country of origin when they order fresh fruit and vegetables, just like the supermarket around the corner and the trader at the weekly market. This was made clear by the Munich Higher Regional Court, which confirmed a ruling by the Munich Regional Court.
The judges made short work of the case and announced their verdict after only two hours of hearing: appeal dismissed. As chairman of the senate, Andreas Müller, explained, food traders must inform their consumers about the country where the fruit and vegetables were harvested. This transparent product information is required by an EU regulation for the protection of consumers.
Stating that the grapes 'come from Italy or Brazil or India or 10 other possible countries' violates these requirements. "In the autumn I might want grapes from a European country and not from South Africa," the judge said. Similarly, he said, it was against the law to order mangoes from Senegal but then having them delivered from Israel.
Consumer protection organisation Foodwatch had found exactly this during test purchases and sued Amazon. Amazon, on the other hand, argued that it was not even possible to specify only one country of origin in online food retailing. That not a single online food retailer complies with the requirements. And that customers do not expect this at all. If strawberries are ordered for a festival in three weeks, it depends on the weather and the harvest where the goods ultimately come from, said the Amazon lawyer.
EU Market Directive
That's not how it works, the regional court had already told the company: The EU Market Directive applies to everyone, and if the Amazon business model cannot comply with it, the online retailer has to change its business model, not the other way round.
Amazon has now shown that this is possible - contrary to what was initially claimed. As the company's lawyer said in court, Amazon fresh now gives a concrete country of origin. However, customers can now only order three days in advance, the offer has become smaller and "the sales volume has dropped by over 20 per cent".
Booming and demanding online business
It is a hard blow, because according to Cologne-based retail research institute EHI, no one in Germany is yet earning money with online food retailing - apart from specialists like wine mail-order companies. That's why there are only a few players in this field. While supermarkets and discounters make the biggest sales in the local retail trade, it is the other way round in the online world: there, grocery retailers are the dwarfs with a share of just under two per cent of business.
"There are very few full-range retailers like Rewe or Amazon fresh. Shipping fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen fish, that's demanding," says Lars Hofacker, head of EHI's e-commerce research department. "If the ravioli manufacturer changes the recipe, the buyer can read that on the can. Online, it's much more complex." This also involves questions of liability, for example in the case of allergies, he says. "The Rewes and Edekas are very conscientious about this. Start-ups sometimes seem to be, well - more pragmatic about it."
The online full-range grocers are mainly on the move in big cities where there are also many shops. When Amazon announced four years ago that it would enter the market with groceries, some people said: "Now everything is changing! But that hasn't happened yet," says Hofacker. "Consumers and retailers are still approaching the issue." After all, there are about 37,000 grocery shops and countless farmers' markets and weekly markets in Germany.
Last year, the turnover of online food retailers rose from 1.6 to 2.7 billion euros, according to the German E-Commerce and Distance Selling Trade Association (bevh). The Corona pandemic had brought them new customers. "Some older people who didn't want to go to a shop have learned: this is an option if you're ever not so mobile," says Hofacker. "After Corona, online groceries should continue to grow at a higher level."
For more information: www.amazon.de/