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Guus van Lieshout, LL.M.
Guus van Lieshout, LL.M.

Guus van Lieshout provides legal advice to international and national business entrepreneurs. His focus is on corporate law, but he also deals with contracts, General Terms and Conditions, directors’ liability, and shareholder disputes. Guus is a member of the corporate practice group at Russell Advocaten.


t: +31 20 301 55 55

Contracts: Distribution or agency?

Publishing date: 23 September 2020

Distribution and agency

Difference between agency agreement and distribution agreementIn both distribution and agency a supplier or manufacturer uses an intermediary to promote and distribute his products. At first it may not seem to be significant how the relationship between the supplier and intermediary is characterized. Yet, the qualification is of vital importance, as in addition to the similarities there are crucial differences.

Differences between distribution and agency

  • The intermediary in an agency relation (the agent) acts in the name of and for the account and risk of the supplier or manufacturer (the principal), whereas the distributor is considered as an entrepreneur who acts in his own name. The agent therefore is just a broker. The distributor buys products or services from the supplier or manufacturer and then concludes agreements with customers himself. Therefore, distributors face more financial risks.
  • Upon termination of the agency agreement, the agent is usually entitled to clientele compensation (goodwill indemnity). A distributor will not be entitled to this. However, the distributor can claim damages.
  • The agency agreements are legally regulated, whereas distribution agreements are innominate contracts. The law does offer the agent a certain protection. When concluding distribution agreements the parties have more liberties in making arrangements. However, if these arrangements are not recorded at all or not properly recorded, this can lead to uncertainties.
  • The notice period of distribution agreements is usually longer than the statutory notice period of agency agreements.

Qualify it and lay it down!

Predicting the future is difficult. However, when entering into a long-term agency or distribution relation it is crucial to think about what the situation could be like after one, two or ten years. Clarity from the start will prevent hassles later on. Therefore, it is advisable to devote attention to qualifying the relationship (particularly by asking questions as: who bears the risk of the intermediary’s actions and who will determine the sales strategy?), to actually putting this qualification into practice and to drafting a sound written distribution or agency agreement. We will gladly help you to do so of course! Please contact us:

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