German and Austrian SAP customers will be allowed to maintain their current SAP maintenance contracts when the Enterprise Support price increase starts next month, according to SAP, because of laws regarding contracts in those countries.
But the new support structure, which will increase maintenance and support bills from 17% to 22% of net licensing fees over the next four years, will still be rolled out to everyone else starting next month, SAP said.
"Customers in Austria and Germany are being offered the chance to go back to their earlier maintenance contracts, subject to the stipulated increases in those contracts," SAP spokesman Andy Kendzie said. "Germany and Austria are the only markets where the change is relevant. In all other markets, we're moving forward with the SAP Enterprise Support plan."
It appears that the laws of those two countries require that a completely new contract be signed before SAP can implement new programs, according to Ray Wang, vice president, principal analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research.
In most other countries, however, no new contracts are required, Wang said.
SAP said the change amounts to a one-year extension for German and Austrian customers on older releases at their old contract terms.
The company wouldn't say how these legal challenges surfaced, but the German SAP User Group, known as DSAG, has been very vocal since the SAP maintenance fee increases were announced over the summer.
Asked what SAP would say to all other customers about the changes not applying to them, Kendzie declined to comment.
"SAP continues to believe that its new maintenance offering provides the best value for its customers," he said. "And we consider as evidence the number of customers to date who have signed an SAP Enterprise Support agreement."
Still, it's unclear what the German and Austrian exception means for customers going forward. DSAG also participated in a task force assembled by the worldwide SAP User Group Executive Network (SUGEN) charged with conveying user concerns about the support changes.
"In the overall context, it will be up to SAP to find the best mix for SUGEN and the SAP users," Wang said. "Now's the best time to restore the vendor-client relationship, and this could be a good opportunity."
Wang referred to his blog post in which he points to five steps to restoring trust in the vendor-customer relationship . One of them is to earn customer trust by providing transparency as to where the support money is being allocated.