On 21 June 2018, the German Association of Electrical Wholesalers (VEG) held their Annual General Meeting in Bonn. More than one hundred guests, manufacturers and installers, followed their invitation. Thus in the afternoon over two hundred key market players joined a critical discussion on various aspects of data flow along the value chain.
Ansgar Redder of ETIM Department Digitale Schnittstellen (digital interfaces) described the current state of the new interface for the German market of electrical products, called ELBRIDGE. ELBRIDGE connects product configurators of manufacturers to online shops of electrical wholesale. The ultimate goal is to provide B2B customers with a smooth transition from product composition and customization at the manufacturer’s site to a ready-to-order shopping basket in the wholesaler’s web shop. The project ETIM association supervises the project, which is a perfect match, as ETIM has more than 20 years of experience in successfully promoting a uniform classification for technical products in Germany and beyond.
Up to date, the customer’s journey has to begin at the web shop of their wholesaler, continue to the product configurator at the manufacturer’s site and lead them back to their wholesaler. In the future, ELBRIDGE provides an alternative way to the wholesaler’s web shop after a direct entry at the manufacturer’s configurator. Doing so, an independent interface protects the customer’s privacy and grants them full decision-making authority when it comes to selecting their wholesale partner.
In the subsequent discussion at the Annual Meeting representatives from wholesale, installers, industry, and ETIM underlined the benefits of this business solution: Instead of pressing new demands on data quality and software solutions, ELBRIDGE successfully integrates existing solutions into one tool to accelerate ordering processes and thus protects substantial investments from industry and wholesale. The next step of the development of ELBRIDGE is the integration of specialized installer’s software and planning tools. The underlying concept of ETIM and ELBRIDGE is not language-specific, so a future expansion on a European and international level remains always possible.
Later in the afternoon, the audience shifted their focus to the ever-present issue of the legal implications of data transfer. The practice in question was the legitimacy of passing sales and customer data along the value chain in exchange for discount offers under the provisions of German antitrust law. Dr Maxim Kleine, partner of Norton Rose Fulbright, strongly indicated that several existing discount systems indeed constitute a violation against German antitrust law. An exchange of information on sales and customers between potential competitors is illicit under German law. Wholesalers may only pass on and industry may only demand the transfer of sufficiently accumulated data, from which it is impossible to draw conclusions about individual customers. Maxim Kleine urgently recommended a thorough revision of current business practices.
At their General Annual Meeting 2018, the VEG once more not only offered a brief glimpse of their daily work and the background to an unparalleled networking opportunity, but also provided participants with unique insights while generating valuable and though-provoking impulses.