Silence in the sup­p­ly rela­ti­on (not) a ground for termination?

In the long-standing dis­pu­te bet­ween VW and for­mer sup­pli­er Pre­vent, the Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Cel­le has set the dis­pu­te on a new cour­se with its jud­ge­ment of 8 Decem­ber 2020 – Case 13 U 65/19 (Kart) (only in German).

The ruling was based on the fol­lo­wing: the auto­mo­ti­ve sup­pli­er Pre­vent deman­ded a 25% pri­ce increase from VW for the pro­ducts it sup­pli­ed. After VW tried in vain to find out from Pre­vent what con­se­quen­ces could be expec­ted if this demand was rejec­ted, VW first agreed to the pri­ce adjus­t­ment and then ter­mi­na­ted the con­trac­tu­al rela­ti­on after a few months. To date, VW has most­ly been suc­cessful in court, most recent­ly befo­re the Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Düs­sel­dorf (Judgment of 5 Febru­ary 2020 – Case U (Kart) 4/19) (only in Ger­man), which con­side­red the extra­or­di­na­ry ter­mi­na­ti­on pro­no­un­ced by VW after such a pri­ce increase to be lawful.

Befo­re the Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Cel­le, VW wan­ted the vali­di­ty of the ter­mi­na­ti­on against TWB, a sub­si­dia­ry of Pre­vent, to be con­firm­ed. Howe­ver, con­tra­ry to what pre­vious rulings in the mat­ter had sug­gested, the Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Cel­le held that VW’s uni­la­te­ral ter­mi­na­ti­on was unlawful.

On extra­or­di­na­ry ter­mi­na­ti­on: Silence in the sup­p­ly rela­ti­on (not) good cause?

Accor­ding to the Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Cel­le, extra­or­di­na­ry ter­mi­na­ti­on is inva­lid. This would have requi­red good cau­se in the terms of § 314 of the Civil Code, which is not the case here. In doing so, the Hig­her Regio­nal Court sta­tes – in con­trast to the Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Düs­sel­dorf – that good cau­se can in par­ti­cu­lar not be seen in the silence by Pre­vent. This does not con­sti­tu­te an impli­ed thre­at to stop deli­veries in the event VW fails to accept a pri­ce increase request.

No right of rou­ti­ne termination

The­re was also no right of rou­ti­ne ter­mi­na­ti­on. Such a right does not ari­se eit­her from the frame­work sup­p­ly agree­ment or from the other con­tents of the con­tract; to the con­tra­ry, a right of rou­ti­ne ter­mi­na­ti­on is pre­cis­e­ly excluded by Sec­tion 2.1.1 of the Spe­ci­fi­ca­ti­ons. Accor­din­gly, an under­stan­ding bet­ween the par­ties, i.e. an agree­ment, is requi­red for the pre­ma­tu­re ces­sa­ti­on of the con­trac­tu­al rela­ti­on. In the view of the Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Cel­le, this also results from the inte­rests of the par­ties expres­sed in the nomi­na­ti­on letter.

Com­pen­sa­ti­on and outlook

In respon­se to the cross com­plaint filed by the Pre­vent sub­si­dia­ry, the Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Cel­le also ruled that VW must pay it dama­ge compensation.

It remains to be seen whe­ther the ruling of the Hig­her Regio­nal Court of Cel­le as a pre­ce­dent (supplier-friendly) case will have an impact on ongo­ing and future proceedings.

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