Germany is saving consumers from their own poor spelling.
A German court has barred Amazon from drawing in online shoppers who misspell iconic German sandal maker Birkenstock in their Google searches, Reuters reports. Amazon reportedly won business for common Birkenstock misspellings by booking variants like “Brikenstock,” “Bierkenstock,” and “Birkenstok” in Google AdWords, so that they produced search results for shoes sold on Amazon.com.
According to Reuters, Birkenstock turned to the court because it feared shoppers might unwittingly buy shoddy counterfeits, which could damage its brand reputation. “For us, Amazon is complicit,” Birkenstock chief Oliver Reichert told German magazine Der Spiegel, according to Reuters.
Birkenstock first walked away from Amazon.com in July 2016. Besieged by counterfeits and rogue merchants, the company said it would no longer supply products to Amazon for US customers starting Jan. 1, 2017. “The Amazon marketplace, which operates as an ‘open market,’ creates an environment where we experience unacceptable business practices which we believe jeopardize our brand,” David Kahan, Birkenstock’s CEO for the Americas, wrote in a memo at the time.
A year later, Kahan denounced Amazon in a lengthy memo for attempting to get Birkenstock retailers to sell it their inventory, even though the company had explicitly removed its sandals from Amazon.com in the US. “I share in no uncertain terms that this is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Kahan wrote. “[A]ny Authorized retailer who may do this for even a single pair will be closed FOREVER.”
Amazon is a tough internet giant to foil. Its Zappos subsidiary sells a wide array of its offerings, and a search for “Birkenstock” from the US still returns plenty of results on its website, though many of the shoes are also out of stock. Earlier this month, Birkenstock also pulled its merchandise from Amazon in Europe over the online shopping company’s alleged failure to stamp out counterfeits.
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