The German Cartel Office has decided not to act against a decision by all the major suppliers of lenses in Germany to stop providing the country's opticians with a free extra sample of every prescription lens for replacement purposes, starting next Jan. 1. Essilor started the action last Summer, and all the other majors followed suit immediately, triggering a complaint by the opticians.

Unlike their colleagues in other parts of Europe, opticians in Germany, Austria and Switzerland have been able to obtain two identical lenses for the price of one for several decades in order to satisfy their customers' requests for replacement in case of damage, even several years after the initial purchase. The extra free lens has cost manufacturers more than 10 million DM (e5m-$4.5m) annually, yet many Germany consumers were not aware of this extended warranty, that doesn't apply to many other types of goods, and many opticians were charging them for the new lens anyway.

German retailers have agreed in principle to limit their guarantee to one year, hoping that their suppliers will share the burden for the manufacture and delivery of replacement lenses, with the conditions negotiated individually by each company. The new arrangement will likely be applied also in Austria and Switzerland if suppliers and retailers end up with mutually beneficial compromises on the issue in Germany.