Accell Succeeds in Legal Battle on Stopping Deliveries to Webshop
AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands – In mid December the Dutch subsidiary of Accell Group NV was successful in its attempts to stop deliveries to webshop ‘Fietsenwinkel.nl’. The verdict ended a long legal battle that started in September 2015 between Accell NL and International Bike Group (IBG), owner of Fietsenwinkel.nl. It results in the fact that Accell is allowed to stop its deliveries to this, in the Netherlands market leading, webshop which is expanding into other European countries.
Already in September 2015 Accell wanted to stop its business with IBG/Fietsenwinkel.nl. The reason for ending its relations with the webshop was “Breach of trust due to the sudden unilaterally changed course on the part of IBG that previously consisted of the store chain ‘Hans Struijk Fietsen’ and Fietsenwinkel.nl. Accell never intended to do business exclusively with this webshop that focusses on online bike sales only,” said Wouter Jager who, at that time was MD of Accell NL and now is Accell Group’s Marketing Director.
New margins scheme of Accell Group
The legal battle between the two companies resulted in a mutually agreed settlement in February 2016 which stipulated that, among other things, Accell NL could stop supplying its Koga branded bikes to Fietsenwinkel.nl/IBG. However, since that settlement another court case started when Accell NL presented a new margins scheme to IBG based on its business with Fietsenwinkel.nl only and excluding the store chain Hans Struijk Fietsen. In this court case, initiated by IBG, the December 19 verdict rules that the current agreement between IBG and Accell Nederland will end on April 6, 2018.
“Breakdown of the negotiations”
During the proceedings Accell pointed out to the court that “Accell has done everything it can to reach a new agreement with IBG in the past year and a half.” The court’s summary says “parties have subsequently negotiated a new agreement far into 2017.” The court states that “it cannot be established that the breakdown of the negotiations was to a large extent due to either one of the negotiating parties.”
The Court concluded that Accell may cancel the agreement with Fietsenwinkel.nl due to the failure of the negotiations on a new agreement. Since the letter that Accell has sent about this is dated October 6, 2017, the termination of the (half-year term) contract with Fietsenwinkel.nl applies from April 6, 2018.
Explanation on court ruling
Both parties see their advantage in the court’s decision. Accell because as of April 6, 2018 it no longer is obliged to deliver to IBG/Fietsenwinkel.nl under the current conditions. IBG because it has achieved that up to April 6, 2018 the bicycles and e-bikes of the various Accell brands will still be delivered according to the current conditions and margins.
Accell’s redefined (omni-channel) strategy
Whether Accell’s perseverance in its attempts to stop its business relations with webshop Fietsenwinkel.nl/IBG is related to its redefined (omni-channel) strategy that the company is implementing, is unclear. However, on that in March 2017 announced strategy said Accell CFO Hielke Sybesma at that time “For the implementation of the omni-channel strategy, we will create our own on-line platforms. Conflicts about pricing which we see a lot in the retail market at the moment should be avoided in the future.” When making these comments (at a March 2017 press meeting on Accell’s 2016 financial results) CFO Sybesma emphasized that the company’s omni-channel distribution strategy “Includes our current IBDs. They will continue to play an important part in our service network.”
Winning brands portfolio
Furthermore Accell stipulated that its “Consumer centricity and omni-channel approach, in cooperation with specialist retailers, comes with a winning portfolio of brands. Modern consumers want a broad product range and plenty of choice. Accell Group will continue to develop its multi-brand strategy and innovations to strengthen the competitive position of its brands in the company’s main countries and its leading position in e-bikes.”
What probably also played a role with regard to the now stopped relationships between the two companies, is the ambition of IBG/Fietsenwinkel.nl. The company claims to be the “leading omni-channel bike retailer in Europe.” Next to the Netherlands and Belgium IBG is currently active in Denmark, Sweden and Norway with webshops that carry the HelloRider name. HelloRider webshops are coming in Germany and France as these domains have been claimed. And more major bike markets like Italy and Spain are undoubtedly to follow.
IBG’s business model
In these markets IBG will be applying its business model of offering next to international brands also local well-known brands like Kildemoes in Denmark and Monark as well as Crescent in Sweden. And the bikes of these brands are offered with huge discounts of 30 to 40% which kills the competition by local dealers.
Whether the court ruling in the Netherlands will present problems for IBG in achieving its European ambitions is unclear for the time being. The same goes for whether it has legal implications for other bike companies and their relations with webshops.
Bike Europe asked Accell NL for further comments on this article. The company’s commercial director Sten van der Ham reacted with “As the case is still in court we will not comment on it.”
What can be concluded from this is that one of the two parties has appealed to the ruling made on 19 December, 2017.