THE High Court will decide this week whether Body Shop has breached European law for failing to supply companies that control more than half its franchises in Austria.
The court will be asked for an injunction, forcing Body Shop to supply products immediately because the Austrian business fears it will run out of grapefruit bath oil, jojoba face cream and nettle soap before the Christmas rush.
The landmark case, which goes before the courts on Friday, has been brought by Peter Sockel, an Austrian businessman who, through his two companies, Aboco and Sockel, controls both the head franchise for Body Shop and 10 of its 19 outlets in the country.
He claims that Body Shop International, the subsidiary of Anita Roddick's group which controls the worldwide franchises, is trying to force him to sell his assets for a pittance.
Mr Sockel says that as part of its campaign, Body Shop has stopped supplying him with the company's products, in breach of Article 82 of the Treaty of Rome, which governs trade between members of the European Union.
In a detailed writ, lodged with the High Court, Mr Sockel explains how he has had business dealings with Body Shop for 13 years, ever since he set up the company's first Austrian outlet in Vienna. …