Empty crates of drinks: do you pay for them - or just the drink they carry?
Photo: Ralf Poller / avanti / IMAGO
According to an opinion of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the deposit for bottles or glasses does not have to be included in the total price.
Grocers can advertise the price of a product and mark the deposit separately, Advocate General Nicholas Emiliou found in his Opinion in Luxembourg.
A verdict on this question is likely to come in a few months.
The ECJ judges often, but not always, follow the assessment of the experts.
The background is a case before the German Federal Court of Justice (BGH).
The Association of Social Competition wanted to have the question clarified in principle and therefore sued a department store chain based in Kiel.
In an advertising brochure, the latter had printed the prices for drinks and yoghurt in a glass without a deposit surcharge, with the addition »plus.
The association considers this inadmissible.
The price must be given in total.
However, most dealers handle it like the people of Kiel do.
The Advocate General largely followed the grocers' arguments.
The deposit can be refunded to the buyer and is therefore - unlike a tax - not part of the final purchase price.
If the deposit were already included in the price, consumers could make false comparisons between the products, since a deposit is charged for some but not for others.
Depending on the type of packaging, the deposit also varies, which makes a comparison even more difficult.
Recycling incentive could disappear
In addition, the deposit system should be an incentive to buy products where the container is recycled.
However, with an overall price, this environmental aspect could fade into the background for buyers, according to Emiliou.
The ECJ is responsible for the uniform interpretation of European Union law.
Once he has made his decision, the case goes back to the national courts and has an impact on the case law there.