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A discount (from Italian : rabbattere = cut off, deduct) is a reduction from the list price of a product or service or from the price that the entrepreneur generally announces or demands in some other way (net sales price) or a special price due to the affiliation is granted to certain consumer groups, professions, associations or societies. Discounts are used as purchase incentives in pricing policy and are used both for offline purchases and increasingly in online retailing ( online couponing ). The calculation takes place during the price calculation . Discounts are usually given as a percentage of the list price as a discount rate . A similar money off action unfolds offering, announcing or granting allowances . Free gifts are discounts in the form of goods. No discounts are general price reductions or product rebates.

Discount forms

The most important forms of discount are:

  • A discount or cash discount is the reduction of the invoice amount when paying within the discount period.
  • The quantity discount or scale discount is intended to encourage the purchase of large quantities of goods in a single delivery. When purchasing or ordering goods or commercial services, a price reduction or an additional amount of the same goods ( extra ) is granted free of charge . Most of the time, discount scales are set, the price is gradually reduced when a larger number of items is purchased. If the discount is granted above a certain value, one speaks of a goods value discount. They were also permissible under the validity of the Discount Act, provided that they were to be regarded as customary in the trade in terms of type and scope as well as the number or quantity sold. There was no fixed percentage here.
  • The annual discount is granted on sales made in one year . It can be set once or staggered according to sales.
  • The loyalty discount is intended to promote customer loyalty and ward off competitors.
  • The item discount is usually only granted on one invoice item, but can also be granted on several items in the invoice.
  • The sales bonus is a customer credit that is paid out when an agreed total sales volume has been achieved at the end of the year.
  • The sales conditions bonus rewards customers' buying and payment behavior (cf. Geml / Lauer, pp. 336–337). The bonus is higher, the better the customer's payment behavior.
  • The function discount is granted if the customer undertakes to take on certain tasks (e.g. advertising, sorting, filling).
  • The reseller discount is the trading margin granted to wholesalers and retailers for goods whose retail price is set by the manufacturer. It is intended to secure a reasonable profit for the dealer .
  • When free goods , the buyer receives an indirect discount in the form of unpaid goods ( a bonus ).
  • The seasonal discount is granted if goods that are subject to strong seasonal fluctuations are purchased early.

There are also various forms of special discounts, for example:

  • First-time customer discount to win new customers
  • Staff discount for employees (see discount allowance )
  • Anniversary discount for business anniversaries
  • Promotion discount for retail in connection with targeted promotions (e.g. mailings, couponing , discount stamps ). The trade thus takes on an advertising function.
  • Clearance discount that is intended to create storage space for new goods at the end of a season (e.g. winter sales).
  • Mail-in discount (also called cashback ): The buyer receives a discount e.g. B. paid by check after sending proof of purchase and / or part of the packaging to the manufacturer.
  • Web discount: Discount that is granted to the buyer if he orders the product via the Internet and thus less costs (e.g. personnel, warehouse) are incurred for the company.
  • Point discount: Bonus points accumulated proportionally over previous sales (usually 1–5 percent of the purchase price) are converted into price discounts for future purchases.
  • No-claims discount with car insurance
  • Early booking discount as a reduction on the catalog prices of tour operators if the trip is booked early.
  • Journalists' discount as a special discount or discount on goods and services for journalists.
  • Lot in the book trade: A combination of natural and graduated discounts

Legal situation in Germany

In Germany, a discount law had been in effect since 1934 , which partially prohibited the granting of price reductions to end consumers for everyday goods and limited it to a maximum of 3%. The 1935 bonus ordinance regulates discounts in kind .

On July 24, 2001 the discount law and the bonus regulation were abolished. Deregulation was among other things. a. already discussed in 1994.

Since the liberalization , customers and dealers can negotiate discounts in almost all areas. Fixed book prices are an exception . Critics of the liberalization expressed the fear that the onset of price wars could force smaller providers out of the market and thus jobs could be lost.

According to Section 3 GWB, several companies may join together to form a so-called discount cartel by registering. This enables discounts on the delivery of goods to be achieved.

Advertising with excessive discounts can be illegal according to Section 5 (4) UWG with the case law of the Federal Court of Justice .


A discount often gives customers the impression that they can purchase a high-quality product at a price that is favorable for them. However, this is by no means always the case, because the actual value of the goods is often hidden from the buyer. Instead, it is based on the so-called substitute price, from which the discount is deducted. Many traders take advantage of this by deliberately setting excessive prices (so-called moon prices ) in order to then grant apparently generous discounts. If you compare the price obtained in this way with the actual value of the product, some supposed bargains even turn out to be overpriced.

Discounts have always been granted for various reasons throughout the history of trade. Even if less documented in the literature, the "bargain hunter" has been around for just as long. An indication of this could be the quotation attributed to the English writer John Ruskin :

There is hardly anything in this world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and people who are only price-oriented become the fair prey of such machinations. - It is unwise to pay too much, but it is even worse to pay too little. If you pay too much, you will lose some money. That's all. On the other hand, if you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything because the thing you bought cannot do the job it was bought to do. The law of the economy forbids getting a lot of value for little money. - If you accept the lowest offer you have to add something for the risk you take. And if you do that, you'll have enough money to pay for something better. "

- John Ruskin, Professor of Art at Oxford University, England (1819–1900)

A form of discount that has been heavily criticized by various parties is the journalist discount , because it could shape journalistic reporting as a possible form of taking advantage or bribery . The anti-corruption organization Transparency International is therefore calling for the abolition of special conditions and discounts for journalists.


  • Richard Geml, Hermann Lauer: Marketing and Sales Lexicon , 4th updated and completely revised edition. Schäffer-Poeschel, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-7910-2798-2 .
  • Rolf-Günther Nolden, Ernst Bitzer: Special economics industry. Volume 1: Business Processes Textbook / Textbook. 7th edition, Bildungsverlag Eins, Stam, Cologne 2010 (first edition 1997), ISBN 978-3-8237-1559-7 .
  • Kurt Thieme, Rainer Fischer, Michael Sostmann: Price Pressure? So what! How top sellers negotiate prices successfully. 3. Edition. Avance, Uffing 2007, ISBN 978-3-9810226-0-5 (Pocketline).

Web links

Wiktionary: Discount  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. game . In: ABC des Zwischenbuchhandel, Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels .
  2. "Discount Act: Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Tremble" , Spiegel Online from July 25, 2001
  3. Third discussion of the draft of a law on the deregulation of the discount law introduced by the federal government (Discount Deregulation Act - DiscountDeregG) on June 16, 1994 - [Third discussion of the draft of a law on the deregulation of the discount law introduced by the federal government (Discount Deregulation Act - DiscountDeregG) Printed matter 12/7271]
  4. BGH, press release, No. 216/2008 on the judgment of November 20, 2008, Az. I ZR 122/06.
  5. Discounts with aftertaste ( memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Media Monitor, accessed November 8, 2015 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. Enjoyment of favors. Journalism and Corruption ( Memento of the original from March 5, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ,, p. 39, accessed on November 6, 2015 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. Spotlight 39, main topic: media ( memento of the original from April 7, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Transparency International, April 2008, accessed November 11, 2015