A country-by-country guide to commercial agents
30 June 2016
Having an effective route to market is vital for any business to make its products available to its customers. Many businesses remain unaware of the extent of the protection afforded to “commercial agents” by European legislation. This lack of awareness can prove to be costly. There are many examples of businesses – particularly multinationals – finding themselves liable to pay significant sums to their agents even when, on the face of it, the business has acted entirely in accordance with the agency contract. This guide will explain why that is the case and how the protection afforded to agents varies across Europe.
How can we help?
Our guide provides an introduction to the law of commercial agency across Europe. It also covers:
- An overview of the underlying legislation across Europe, which for the 28 Member States of the EU plus the further members of the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), is the European Council Directive on the coordination of the laws of the Member States relating to self-employed commercial agents (86/653/EEC) (the “Directive”).
- How each Member State has interpreted and implemented the Directive and highlights the key provisions of which businesses need to be aware.
- it provides you with an overview of each of the main jurisdictions, on a country-by-country basis. It also includes Switzerland for completeness, which has its own laws applicable to commercial agents.
The Directive – an overview
The Directive applies to the 28 EU Member States plus the further members of the European Economic Area, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It concerns commercial agents – independent/self-employed organisations or individuals used in the “negotiation” of the sale or purchase of products on behalf of a business – and was introduced for two main purposes:
- to strengthen the position of commercial agents
- to harmonise the laws of the Member States
The Directive sets out basic rules regulating the main aspects of the agency relationship between the principal and agent. It has important implications for businesses which operate through agents or representatives, generally enhancing the rights enjoyed by agents and imposing specific obligations on principals to ensure that they act fairly.