There is a certain pernicketiness about the Germans that seems destined in this new era of open markets to drive the British mad. It is not only in the area of German environmental legislation - with their strict new rules on disposing of packaging - that the British are finding problems. Concern has been mounting in at least three other areas. One is to do with the strict advertising standards set by the industry-funded standards bodies. Cutlery maker Richardson Sheffield, for example, found its slogan "Never needs sharpening" was banned in Germany as an overstatement, even though it was acceptable in 70 other countries. In addition, the German consumer, and thus the retailers, make selling into Germany more hassle and sometimes more costly by their obsessive preference for goods that carry the German safety standard mark - the G S mark. Although this standard is often met by British goods, there have been unproven claims of discrimination against foreigners in the granting of the GS mark. And finally, there is the inbred culture of cross-shareholdings among German companies. This phenomenon can mean that foreign takeovers of German firms are hampered by banks who refuse to sell their stakes in their clients, and that groups like British publishers and engineers may have difficulty getting the back-up they need from local distributing or service firms which are part-owned by their German competitors. The EC might well change the rules, but no one has yet discovered how to change a nation's habits.
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