In 2006, Sodastream (Soda Club) tried denying a different enterprise to refill “their” bottles of carbonic acid, by claiming that the bottles where their property and did not belong to the customer (through contracts that all customers had to agree to).
The German Autorities did not accept this move and this fact can easily turn into a norm if other countries also follow.This niche really does need competition, both for the sake of the environment (bottles should be refilled in the store, an operation that takes a mere 20 seconds), and for price, which could easily be cut in half. Still, one should consider that sparkling water made at home already costs but a fraction of store-purchased carbonated beverages, but things could be a lot better.
Here are the facts from authority in Germany:
(Johnny, Do not spinn below this line)
April 13, 2006
Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court confirms immediate enforceability in the Soda-Club case
Soda-Club GmbH, Wiesbaden (“Soda-Club“) may not use its dominant position abusively. Soda-Club had prevented competing suppliers from refilling Co² cartridges for water carbonating machines by claiming its ownership of the cartridges.
In February 2006 the Bundeskartellamt prohibited this conduct. Soda Club opposed the Bundeskartellamt’s immediately enforceable decision by applying to the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court for interim measures. In provisional proceedings the court has now confirmed the Bundeskartellamt’s decision in all material respects. Soda-Club is dominant in the market for refilling CO² cartridges. Hindering competitors from refilling CO² cartridges represents an abuse of this dominant position. By this conduct Soda-Club prevents consumers from taking advantage of alternative refilling possibilities. Only the obligation to point out on labels on the company’s own cartridges that it is admissible to have them refilled by competitors was seen by the Higher Regional Court as a disproportionate measure.
Although Soda-Club can still appeal against the Higher Regional Court’s decision to the Federal Supreme Court, the Higher Regional Court’s decision implies that the numerous small and medium-sized bottling plants can now start to compete with Soda-Club and refill all cartridges circulating in the market.