Using an Agent or Distributor
Companies wishing to use distribution, franchising and agency arrangements need to ensure that the agreements they put into place are in accordance with European Union (EU) and Member State national laws. Council Directive 86/653/EEC establishes certain minimum standards of protection for self-employed commercial agents who sell or purchase goods on behalf of their principals. In essence, the Directive establishes the rights and obligations of the principal and its agents; the agent’s remuneration; and the conclusion and termination of an agency contract, including the notice to be given and indemnity or compensation to be paid to the agent. U.S. companies should be particularly aware that the Directive states that parties may not derogate certain requirements. Accordingly, the inclusion of a clause specifying an alternate body of law to be applied in the event of a dispute will likely be ruled invalid by European courts.
The European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition enforces legislation concerned with the effects on competition in the internal market of such "vertical agreements." Most U.S. exporters are small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs) and are therefore exempt from the Regulations because their agreements likely would qualify as "agreements of minor importance," meaning they are considered incapable of affecting competition at the EU level but useful for cooperation between SMEs. Generally speaking, companies with fewer than 250 employees and an annual turnover of less than €50 million are considered small- and medium-sized undertakings. The EU has additionally indicated that agreements that affect less than 10 percent of a particular market are generally exempted as well (Commission Notice 2001/C 368/07).
The EU also looks to combat payment delays with Directive 2000/35/EC. This covers all commercial transactions within the EU, whether in the public or private sector, primarily dealing with the consequences of late payment. Transactions with consumers, however, do not fall within the scope of this Directive. In sum, the Directive entitles a seller who does not receive payment for goods/services within 30-60 days of the payment deadline to collect interest (at a rate of 7 percent above the European Central Bank rate) as compensation. The seller may also retain the title to goods until payment is completed and may claim full compensation for all recovery costs.
Companies’ agents and distributors can take advantage of the European Ombudsman when victim of inefficient management by an EU institution or body. Complaints can be made to the European Ombudsman only by businesses and other bodies with registered offices in the EU. The Ombudsman can act upon these complaints by investigating cases in which EU institutions fail to act in accordance with the law, fail to respect the principles of good administration, or violate fundamental rights.
The EU’s general data protection Directive (95/46/EC) spells out strict rules concerning the processing of personal data. Businesses must tell consumers that they are collecting data, what they intend to use it for, and to whom it will be disclosed. Data subjects must be given the opportunity to object to the processing of their personal details and to opt-out of having them used for direct marketing purposes. This opt-out should be available at the time of collection and at any point thereafter. This general legislation is supplemented by specific rules set out in the "Directive on the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector" (2002/58/EC). This requires companies to secure the prior consent of consumers before sending them marketing emails. The only exception to this opt-in provision is if the marketer has already obtained the intended recipient’s contact details in the context of a previous sale and wishes to send them information on similar products and services.
Transferring Customer Data to Countries outside the EU
The EU's general data protection Directive provides for the free flow of personal data within the EU but also for its protection when it leaves the region’s borders. Personal data can only be transferred outside the EU if adequate protection is provided for it or if the unambiguous consent of the data subject is secured. The European Commission has decided that a handful of countries have regulatory frameworks in place that guarantee the adequate protection of data transferred to them – the United States is not one of these.
The Department of Commerce and the European Commission negotiated the Safe Harbor agreement to provide U.S. companies with a simple, streamlined means of complying with the adequacy requirement. It allows those U.S. companies that commit to a series of data protection principles (based on the Directive), and who publicly state that commitment by "self-certifying" on a dedicated website, to continue to receive personal data from the EU. Signing up is voluntary but the rules are binding on those who do. The ultimate means of enforcing Safe Harbor is that failure to fulfill the commitments will be actionable as an unfair and deceptive practice under Section 5 of the FTC Act or under a concurrent Department of Transportation statute for air carriers and ticket agents. While the United States as a whole does not enjoy an adequacy finding, transfers that are covered by the Safe Harbor scheme will. Companies whose activities are not regulated by the FTC or DoT (e.g. banks, credit unions, savings and loan institutions, securities dealers, insurance companies, not-for-profit organizations, meat packing facilities, or telecommunications carriers) are not eligible to sign up to the Safe Harbor.
EU based exporters or U.S. based importers of personal data can also satisfy the adequacy requirement by including data privacy clauses in the contracts they sign with each other. The Data Protection Authority in the EU country from where the data is being exported must approve these contracts. To fast track this procedure the European Commission has approved sets of model clauses for personal data transfers that can be inserted into contracts between data importers and exporters. The most recent were published at the beginning of 2005; work to update these and develop new ones in ongoing. Most transfers using contracts based on these model clauses do not require prior approval. Companies must bear in mind that the transfer of personal data to third countries is a processing operation that is subject to the general data protection Directive regardless of any Safe Harbor, contractual or consent arrangements.
EU countries’ Data Protection Authorities (DPAs) and large multinational companies are also developing a third major approach to compliance with EU rules on transfers of personal data to countries outside the EU. This is based on country-by-country approval of “binding corporate rules” (BCRs). Companies that set up BCRs that satisfy European DPAs will be able to use the presumption of conformity that these approvals provide to transfer personal data from the EU to any location in the world – not just the United States. BCRs can be a tool for compliance with privacy rules on a global scale. The process of negotiation and approval of the BCRs is currently lengthy and complex, and has not been attempted by small or medium-sized companies.
Germany is a mature franchise market in which local entrepreneurs have developed sophisticated concepts. A high concentration of franchising chains in Germany exists in the service sector (45%), trade (37%), building and handicraft (8%), and gastronomy (10%). Industry sources expect the best prospects to be in the areas of training and educational services; express delivery services (all types); theme bistros/restaurants; office management, accounting and tax services; maintenance, cleaning and sanitation services; advertising; telecommunication products and services; energy saving products and services; retail stores (specialized); home care services; and environmental services. U.S. franchisors must be prepared to adapt to required market norms and standards, invest in market research, test market receptivity through pilot projects, and to adjust their concepts to German business practices and consumer tastes. Restrictions to competition in franchise agreements are generally covered by the Block Exemption on Vertical Restraints of 1999 referred to in the preceding chapter "Distributors."
German consumers are accustomed to purchasing via catalog and have become more receptive to shopping on Internet platforms. More than 80% of German enterprises use direct marketing to sell their products and services. The most frequently used formats are email and Internet marketing (65%), telephone marketing (31%), direct mail (24%) and inserts in publications with a response element (18%). Trading companies, manufacturers, and service companies spend more than EUR 30 billion on direct marketing with mailing expenditures clearly in the lead, followed by inserts with response elements, and telephone marketing. Direct marketing agencies currently employ 48,000, a number which is expected to grow over the next years.
It is important to know the pitfalls of using direct marketing as a selling tool in Germany. Data protection and privacy laws are stringent, and consumer protection guidelines and competitive advertising are also highly regulated. Companies should consult with a lawyer before raising, storing or processing any sort of data in Germany. Other potential challenges regard the laws pertaining to unfair competition and rebates.
There is a wide range of EU legislation that impacts the direct marketing sector. Compliance requirements are stiffest for marketing and sales to private consumers. Companies need to focus, in particular, on the clarity and completeness of the information they provide to consumers prior to purchase, and on their approaches to collecting and using customer data. The following gives a brief overview of the most important provisions flowing from EU-wide rules on distance selling and on-line commerce. It is worth noting that the EU is currently overhauling its consumer protection legislation. Companies are advised to consult the information available via the hyper-links, to check the relevant sections of national Country Commercial Guides, and to contact the Commercial Service at the U.S. Mission to the European Union for more specific guidance.
Processing Customer Data
The EU has strict laws governing the protection of personal data, including the use of such data in the context of direct marketing activities. For more information on these rules, please see the privacy section above.
Distance Selling Rules
Distance and Door-to-Door sales.
The EU’s Directive on distance selling to consumers (97/7/EC) sets out a number of obligations for companies doing business at a distance with consumers.
Distance Selling of Financial Services
Financial services are the subject of a separate Directive that came into force in June 2002 (2002/65/EC). This piece of legislation amends three prior existing Directives and is designed to ensure that consumers are appropriately protected in respect to financial transactions taking place where the consumer and the provider are not face-to-face.
Direct Marketing Over the Internet
The e-commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) imposes certain specific requirements connected to the direct marketing business. Promotional offers must not mislead customers and the terms that must be met to qualify for them have to be easily accessible and clear. The Directive stipulates that marketing e-mails must be identified as such to the recipient and requires that companies targeting customers on-line must regularly consult national opt-out registers where they exist.
Dealing with joint ventures ranks among the most difficult jobs under German competition law. In Germany, joint venture legislation falls under the purview of the Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt: http://www.bundeskartellamt.de). The law requires that a joint venture must exercise “genuine entrepreneurial” activities. Under German law, this means:
- Organizations which merely carry out auxiliary functions such as purchasing or distribution on behalf of the parents are not considered joint ventures; and
- JVs must have at their disposal sufficient assets and personnel to carry out their activities.
The Bundeskartellamt is required to prohibit a merger if it is "expected to create or strengthen a dominant position.” Market dominance is defined as an undertaking, which either has no competitors or is not exposed to any substantial competition or has a paramount market position in relation to its competitors.
German antitrust law does not, in the absence of a dominant market position, restrict the owner’s freedom to use her/his industrial property rights, including the exploitation of a patented innovation.
Selling to the Government
Selling to German government entities is not an easy process. Although there has been a delay in implementing some facets of the EU Utility Directive, German government procurement is formally non-discriminatory and compliant with the GATT Agreement on Government Procurement and the European Community's procurement directives. That said, it is a major challenge to compete head-to-head with major German or other EU suppliers who have established long-term ties with purchasing entities.
The EU public procurement market, including EU institutions and Member States, totals around EUR 1,600 billion. This market is regulated by two Directives:
- Directive 2004/18 on Coordination of procedures for the award of public works, services and supplies contracts, and
- Directive 2004/17 on Coordination of procedures of entities operating in the Utilities sector, which covers the following sectors: water, energy, transport and postal services.
Remedies directives cover legal means for companies who face discriminatory public procurement practices. These directives are implemented in the national procurement legislation of the 27 EU Member States.
The US and the EU are signatories of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), which grants access to most public supplies and some services and works contracts published by national procuring authorities of the countries that are parties to the Agreement. In practice, this means that U.S.-based companies are eligible to bid on supplies contracts from European public contracting authorities above the agreed thresholds.
For more information, please visit the U.S. Commercial Service at the U.S. Mission to the European Union website dedicated to EU public procurement. This site also has a database of all European public procurement tenders that are open to U.S.-based firms by virtue of the Government Procurement Agreement. Access is free of charge.
Distribution and Sales Channels
Distribution channels are varied and similar to the United States. There are certain restrictions, however, concerning multi-level networking systems, i.e., so-called snowball or pyramid distribution systems.
Success in the German market, as elsewhere around the world, requires long-term commitment to market development and sales backup, especially if U.S. companies are to overcome the geographic handicap with respect to European competitors. Germans at times perceive U.S. suppliers as tending to process a U.S. domestic order before taking care of an export sale, or being quick to bypass a local distributor to deal directly with its customer. Some German entrepreneurs with selective experience with U.S. companies are skeptical about their long-term commitment and after-sales support. U.S. firms entering Germany today are generally aware of the factors that make for a successful export relationship and are ready to establish a credible support network. However, U.S. firms should be ready to address any lingering doubts from prospective German clients/partners.
Germany is the European leader in e-commerce and is among the world’s most sophisticated markets: Germany, the world’s number one exporter, is the largest economy in the European Union and the third largest in the world. As Europe’s most populous nation, Germany also has the largest number of Internet users, 41 million people (65 percent of the population) in 2008. 62 percent of German Internet users have used online shops in 2008. More products are sold online than through traditional mail order. The most popular product categories are music, video, travel, tickets, books and consumer electronics. Price, trust and product diversity play a major role in determining where products are purchased. The most popular online shops are ebay.de, amazon.de, tchibo.de and otto.de. A majority of online retailers is also relying on the traditional offline retail channel and 67 percent expect growing e-commerce revenues in 2009 despite the financial crisis.
Trade Promotion and Advertising
Few countries in the world can match Germany when it comes to leading international trade fairs. Such a reputation should be no surprise given that the trade fair concept was born in Germany during the Middle Ages. Today, Germany hosts a major world-class trade event in virtually every industry sector, attracting buyers from around the world. Trade fairs thrive in Germany because they are true business events where contracts are negotiated and deals are consummated. The U.S. exhibitors at German fairs should be prepared to take full advantage of the business opportunities presented at these events. While U.S. exhibitors and visitors can conclude transactions, all attendees can use major German trade fairs to conduct market research, see what their worldwide competition is doing, and test pricing strategies. Finally, German fairs attract buyers from throughout the world, allowing U.S. exhibitors to conduct business here with buyers from across Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, as well as with other U.S. companies.
German trade fairs, in general, attract impressive numbers of visitors and exhibitors. This reality confirms the conviction that there is no other venue where an American company can get so much product exposure for its marketing dollar. Trade fairs also provide a U.S. company interested in entering Germany with the opportunity to research its market and the potential of its product properly before making a business decision.
Responding to the international nature of German trade shows, the U.S. Commercial Service has a broad-ranging program entitled “Showcase Europe” designed to support U.S. business interests in the expanded European Union. Focused on high priority sectors such as aerospace; energy; medical equipment, including drugs and pharmaceuticals; telecommunications and information technologies; environmental technologies and equipment; and travel and tourism, “Showcase Europe” provides contacts, market information, and commercial guidance for the entire European market region. What makes these programs effective and unique is that they are conducted by trade specialists who regularly work at U.S. embassies and consulates around Europe, but come together at selected trade fairs for the sole purpose of supporting U.S. firms. "Showcase Europe" programs also address trade policy and other business concerns, such as the protection of intellectual property rights and other market impediments to U.S. companies, which are common across Europe.
In addition to exhibiting at major German trade fairs, advertising plays a central role in most companies’ broad-based marketing programs. Regulation of advertising in Germany is a mix between basic rules and voluntary guidelines developed by the major industry associations. The “Law Against Unfair Competition” established legal rules at the beginning of the 20th Century. Although it has been modified over time, this law continues to be valid today. The law allows suits to be brought if advertising "violates accepted mores."
Many advertising practices that are common in the United States, such as offering premiums, are not allowed in Germany. Any planned advertising campaigns should be discussed with a potential business partner or an advertising agency in Germany.
There are numerous technical or specialized periodicals that deal with all aspects of technology and doing business in Germany. In addition, Germany has a well-developed array of newspapers and magazines which offer the opportunity to gather information and advertise products and services.
Laws against misleading advertisements differ widely from Member State to Member State within the EU. To respond to this imperfection in the Internal Market, the Commission adopted a Directive, in force since October 1986, to establish minimum and objective criteria regarding truth in advertising. The Directive was amended in October 1997 to include comparative advertising. Under the Directive, misleading advertising is defined as any "advertising which in any way, including its presentation, deceives or is likely to deceive the persons to whom it is addressed or whom it reaches and which, by reason of its deceptive nature, is likely to affect their economic behavior or which for those reasons, injures or is likely to injure a competitor." Member States can authorize even more extensive protection under their national laws.
Comparative advertising, subject to certain conditions, is defined as "advertising which explicitly or by implication identifies a competitor or goods or services by a competitor." Member States can, and in some cases have, restricted misleading or comparative advertising.
The EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive lays down legislation on broadcasting activities allowed within the EU. From 2009 the rules will allow for US-style product placement on television and the three-hour/day maximum of advertising will be lifted. However, a 12-minute/hour maximum will remain. Child programming will be subject to a code of conduct that will include a limit of junk food advertising to children.
Following the adoption of the 1999 Council Directive on the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees, product specifications, as laid down in advertising, are now considered as legally binding on the seller. (For additional information on Council Directive 1999/44/EC on the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees, see the legal warranties and after-sales service section below.)
The EU adopted Directive 2005/29/EC concerning fair business practices in a further attempt to tighten up consumer protection rules. These new rules will outlaw several aggressive or deceptive marketing practices such as pyramid schemes, "liquidation sales" when a shop is not closing down, and artificially high prices as the basis for discounts in addition to other potentially misleading advertising practices. Certain rules on advertising to children are also set out.
The advertising of medicinal products for human use is regulated by Council Directive 2001/83/EC. Generally speaking, the advertising of medicinal products is forbidden if market authorization has not yet been granted or if the product in question is a prescription drug. The Commission plans to present a new framework for information to patients on medicines in 2008. The framework would allow industry to produce non-promotional information about their medicines while complying with strictly defined rules and would be subject to an effective system of control and quality assurance.
On July 1, 2007, a new regulation on nutrition and health claims entered into force. Regulation 1924/2006 sets EU-wide conditions for the use of nutrition claims such as “low fat” or “high in vitamin C” and health claims such as “helps lower cholesterol”. The regulation applies to any food or drink product produced for human consumption that is marketed on the EU market. Only foods that fit a certain nutrient profile (below certain salt, sugar and/or fat levels) will be allowed to carry claims. Nutrition and health claims will only be allowed on food labels if they are included in one of the EU positive lists. Food products carrying claims must comply with the provisions of nutritional labeling directive 90/496/EC.
Nutrient profiles will be developed by January 2009, based on scientific evaluations by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Once they have been set, there will be another two-year period before the nutrient profiles begin to apply to allow food operators time to comply with the new rules. Nutrition claims can fail one criterion, i.e. if only one nutrient (salt, sugar or fat) exceeds the limit of the profile, a claim can still be made provided the high level of that particular nutrient is clearly marked on the label. For example, a yogurt can make a low-fat claim even if it has high sugar content but only if the label clearly states “high sugar content”. Health claims cannot fail any criteria.
New products on the EU market must respect the conditions for using nutrition claims set out in detail in the Annex of Regulation 1924/2006. Products already labeled or on the market before January 2007 may remain on the market with the old labels until January 2010. From 2010, only nutrition claims included in the Annex will be allowed.
A list of well-established health function claims such as “calcium is good for your bones” will be established by January 2010, based on Member States’ lists of health claims already approved at national level. Disease risk reduction claims and claims referring to the health and development of children will require an authorization on a case-by-case basis, following the submission of a scientific dossier to EFSA. A simplified authorization procedure has been established for health claims based on new scientific data. GAIN Report E48055 describes how application dossiers for authorization of health claims should be prepared and presented.
Regulation 1925/2006, applicable as of July 1, 2007, harmonizes rules on the addition of vitamins and minerals to foods. The regulation lists the vitamins and minerals that may be added to foods and sets criteria for establishing minimum and maximum levels.
The EU Tobacco Advertising Directive bans tobacco advertising in printed media, radio, and internet as well as the sponsorship of cross-border events or activities. Advertising in cinemas and on billboards or merchandising is allowed though these are banned in many Member States. Tobacco advertising on television has been banned in the EU since the early 1990s and is governed by the TV Without Frontiers Directive.
Germany has become more price-conscious, especially in consumer goods areas. Consequently, price is increasing in importance as a competitive factor, but quality, timely delivery and service remain equally important, especially in the B2B relations.
The German commercial customer expects to be able to pick up the telephone, talk to his or her dealer and have replacement parts or service work immediately available. American exporters should avoid appointing distributors with impossibly large geographic areas, without firm commitments regarding parts inventories or service capabilities, and without agreements on dealer mark-ups
Conscious of the discrepancies among Member States in product labeling, language use, legal guarantee, and liability, the redress of which inevitably frustrates consumers in cross-border shopping, the EU institutions have launched a number of initiatives aimed at harmonizing national legislation. Suppliers within and outside the EU should be aware of existing and upcoming legislation affecting sales, service, and customer support.
Under the 1985 Directive on liability of defective products, amended in 1999, the producer is liable for damage caused by a defect in his product. The victim must prove the existence of the defect and a causal link between defect and injury (bodily as well as material). A reduction of liability of the manufacturer is granted in cases of negligence on the part of the victim.
The 1992 General Product Safety Directive introduces a general safety requirement at the EU level to ensure that manufacturers only place safe products on the market. It was revised in 2001 to include an obligation on the producer and distributor to notify the Commission in case of a problem with a given product, provisions for its recall, the creation of a European Product Safety Network, and a ban on exports of products to third countries that are not deemed safe in the EU.
Legal Warranties and After-sales Service
Under the 1999 Directive on the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees, professional sellers are required to provide a minimum two-year warranty on all consumer goods sold to consumers (natural persons acting for purposes outside their trade, businesses or professions), as defined by the Directive. The remedies available to consumers in case of non-compliance are:
- repair of the good(s);
- replacement of the good(s);
- a price reduction; or
- rescission of the sales contract.
Protecting Your Intellectual Property
Several general principles are important for effective management of intellectual property rights in the EU and Germany. First, it is important to have an overall strategy to protect IPR. Second, IPR is protected differently in Germany than in the U.S. Third, rights must be registered and enforced in Germany under EU laws. Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants. The U.S. Commercial Service can often provide a list of local lawyers upon request.
The EU’s legislative framework for copyright protection consists of a series of Directives covering areas such as the legal protection of computer programs, the duration of protection of authors’ rights and neighboring rights, and the legal protection of databases. Almost all Member States have fully implemented the rules into national law; and the Commission is now focusing on ensuring that the framework is enforced accurately and consistently across the EU.
The on-line copyright Directive (2001/29/EC) addresses the problem of protecting rights holders in the online environment while protecting the interests of users, ISPs and hardware manufacturers. It guarantees authors’ exclusive reproduction rights with a single mandatory exception for technical copies (to allow caching), and an exhaustive list of other exceptions that individual Member States can select and include in national legislation. This list is meant to reflect different cultural and legal traditions, and includes private copying "on condition right holders receive fair compensation."
EU countries have a "first to file" approach to patent applications, as compared to the "first to invent" system currently followed in the United States. This makes early filing a top priority for innovative companies. Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to file for a single EU-wide patent that would be administered and enforced like the Community Trademark (see below). For the moment, the most effective way for a company to secure a patent across a range of EU national markets is to use the services of the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich. It offers a one-stop-shop that enables rights holders to get a bundle of national patents using a single application. However, these national patents have to be validated, maintained and litigated separately in each Member State.
The EU-wide Community Trademark (CTM) can be obtained via a single language application to the Office of Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) in Alicante, Spain. It lasts ten years and is renewable indefinitely. For companies looking to protect trademarks in three or more EU countries the CTM is a more cost effective option than registering separate national trademarks.
On October 1, 2004, the European Commission (EC) acceded to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Madrid Protocol. The accession of the EC to the Madrid Protocol establishes a link between the Madrid Protocol system, administered by WIPO, and the Community Trademark system, administered by OHIM. As of October 1, 2004, Community Trademark applicants and holders are allowed to apply for international protection of their trademarks through the filing of an international application under the Madrid Protocol. Conversely, holders of international registrations under the Madrid Protocol will be entitled to apply for protection of their trademarks under the Community Trademark system.
The EU adopted a Regulation introducing a single Community system for the protection of designs in December 2001. The Regulation provides for two types of design protection, directly applicable in each EU Member State: the registered Community design and the unregistered Community design. Under the registered Community design system, holders of eligible designs can use an inexpensive procedure to register them with the EU’s Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), based in Alicante, Spain. They will then be granted exclusive rights to use the designs anywhere in the EU for up to twenty-five years. Unregistered Community designs that meet the Regulation’s requirements are automatically protected for three years from the date of disclosure of the design to the public.
Within the EU, the rights conferred on trademark holders are subject to the principle of "exhaustion." Exhaustion means that once trademark holders have placed their product on the market in one Member State, they lose the right to prevent the resale of that product in another EU country. This has led to an increase in the practice of so called "parallel importing" whereby goods bought in one Member State are sold in another by third parties unaffiliated to the manufacturer. Parallel trade is particularly problematic for the research-based pharmaceutical industry where drug prices vary from country to country due to national price Regulation.
Community wide exhaustion is spelled out in the Directive on harmonizing trademark laws. In a paper published in 2003, the Commission indicated that it had no plans to propose changes to existing legal provisions.
Companies interested in taking over German firms should always conduct their own due diligence before entering into business ventures. One of the Commercial Service Programs, the International Company Profile, has been designed to support due diligence processes. All major consulting companies offer due diligence services, and most large U.S. accounting or consulting firms have subsidiaries in Germany.
Local Professional Services
The professional services sector is comparable to that in the United States. For all segments of business, there are professional service providers. U.S. Commercial Service Germany has started to build its own network of such companies. The Business Service Provider Directory lists experienced firms which offer services to U.S. exporters and investors interested in Germany: http://www.buyusa.gov/germany/en/business_service_provider.html
Local service providers focusing on EU law, consulting, and business development can be viewed on the website maintained by the Commercial Service at the U.S. Mission to the European Union at: www.buyusa.gov/europeanunion/services.html
For information on professional services located within each of the EU member states, please see EU Member State Country Commercial Guides which can be found at the following website: http://www.export.gov/mrktresearch/index.asp under the Market Research Library.
Marketing U.S. Agricultural Products
The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains an Agricultural Affairs Office in the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. A primary objective of the Agricultural Affairs Office is to facilitate trade in U.S. agricultural products. To meet this goal, they provide the following support and services:
- Custom Matchmaking Service (CMS): Designed to bring German importers and U.S. exporters of food and agricultural products together.
- Lists of German importers, by product sector, for use by U.S. exporters.
- Attaché Reports: Current Market trends on select commodities, such as fish, wine, and forestry products; basic information on exporting food and agricultural products to Germany; and reports on the retail and food-processing sectors in Germany.
- USA Promotions: Decoration and other promotional materials for use in special USA promotions.
- Trade Shows: Information on key trade shows being held in Germany. Also, coordinate special USA pavilions at certain food shows in Germany, and organize and recruit German buyers for U.S. food and agricultural trade shows.
- American Food Directory: Extensive listings of U.S. food and beverage products imported and available for sale in Germany.
The Agricultural Affairs Office also works closely with numerous U.S. agricultural trade associations and U.S. firms in programs to boost foreign demand for U.S. agricultural products. The Agricultural Affairs Office is also responsible for agricultural trade issues, such as reform of farm support, food aid, and biotechnology.