Seasonal goodwill as EPAL and UIC end two year pallet conflict

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

L to R: Robert Holliger, president, EPAL, Karl Kern, chairman, the Pallet Pool (Federal Chamber of Economy Austria [WKÖ]), Thomas Metlich, chairman, UIC
L to R: Robert Holliger, president, EPAL, Karl Kern, chairman, the Pallet Pool (Federal Chamber of Economy Austria [WKÖ]), Thomas Metlich, chairman, UIC

Related tags Contract

EPAL (the European Pallet Association), and UIC, a European Pallet Exchange Group (managed by Rail Cargo Group/OBB, on behalf of UIC), has ended a two year conflict and forged a mutual agreement on load carriers.

UIC broke ties with EPAL in 2012 claiming the scope and financial aspects of its contract were no longer suited to market conditions and EPAL was unable to implement the amendments to the licence contracts with the licence holders of EPAL and intensify the prosecution of product piracy.

Competitive tender process

The former audit company rejected an amendment to the contract structure so EPAL hired Bureau Veritas Industry Services via a competitive tender process.

Thomas Metlich, chairman, UIC, told FoodProductionDaily the two organisations will carry out mutual monitoring and ensure compliance with regulations governing the pallet market.

Two years ago, two organisations parted ways and from a business perspective this was a step in the wrong direction​,” he said.

“Under pressure and at the request of a number of economic and trade partners, UIC and EPAL agreed on a mutual acceptance of load carriers. However, the long-lasting reliability of the largest and most open pallet pool in the world is not a given​.

An important step has now been taken towards optimising pallet management and the recent agreement on unrestricted exchangeability between UIC and EPAL has wiped the slate clean after two years of conflict. All companies that use pallets stand to gain from this agreement​.”

Real challenges ahead

Martin Leibrandt, CEO, EPAL, added the association has always been in favour of continuing with common exchangeability, despite the fact UIC broke away from the group in December 2012.

The current agreement between EPAL and the UIC marks the first step, but the real challenges of the market lie on the other side of the negotiating table: global growth requires well-functioning structures​,” he said.

According to Leibrandt it recorded significant growth in the first “EPAL/EPAL” calendar year with the number of pallets produced in 2013 amounting to 63.5m and as of November 2014 to 64m.

He said recent achievements include expanding EPAL licences in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Croatia and parts of Austria, the production of a half pallet, RFID-tagged pallets and the development of a pallet app (in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute) and the opening of the EPAL Academy in July 2014.

The European Pallet Association has always recognised its market responsibilities and in recent years it worked on further developing the load carriers and their quality assurance​,” he added.

It includes monitoring compliance with trademark law and any legal action as an essential tool for ensuring a stable, global pallet pool​.”

Metlich said moving forward the two groups hope to set up a joint governing body without an ‘organisational and bureaucratic superstructure’,it will determine together the substance of the requisite pallet quality level and prevent the formation of a monopoly.

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