Udpate on the German consumer protection law:
On the basis of the new Act on the Dispute Settlement with Consumers (VSBG), companies from 1 February 2017 doing business in Germany are obliged to inform about conciliation proceedings. Infringements of this legal obligation, as always, involve the risk of competitive warnings by competitors or recognized associations. Therefore there is an acute need for action. Terms and conditions as well as the websites of companies must be revised and updated immediately.
What are the information obligations?
Companies must generally inform on their website and in their General Terms of Business whether or not they
– are ready or
– are legally required or
– have voluntarily committed themselves,
to participate in a conciliation procedure before an institution for consumer disputes settlements.
Companies which are willing or obliged to participate in such conciliation proceedings must also refer to the competent authority for the settlement of conflicts.
The reference must include the exact address and the web site of the competent authority for the use of the consumer. In addition, when a dispute arises with a customer, companies must inform the customer in writing or by e-mail of the address to which consumer protection authority they can turn. At the same time, they must state whether they are willing or obliged to participate in the procedure of this body.
Who is obliged to inform?
The information requirements apply in principle to every company that contracts with consumers.
Companies with up to ten employees are exempt from providing general information about on their website and in their general terms and conditions.
The statutory obligation derives from sec. 36 VSBG:
Section 36 General Information Obligation
(1) An entrepreneur who maintains a web page or uses general terms of business shall be easily accessible to the consumer, clear and comprehensible
1. to notify the extent to which he is willing or obliged to participate in dispute settlement proceedings before a consumer sacking agency;
2. to refer to the competent authority for the suppression of the obligation where the trader has undertaken to participate in a dispute settlement procedure before a consumer-enforcement agency or if he is obliged to participate on the basis of legislation; The reference must include information on the address and web site of the consumer liaison office as well as a declaration by the trader to participate in a dispute settlement procedure before that consumer slaying office.
2. The information referred to in paragraph 1 shall:
1. appear on the website of the entrepreneur, if the entrepreneur has a website,
2. be given together with its general terms and conditions when the entrepreneur uses general terms and conditions.
(3) An entrepreneur who has employed ten or fewer persons on 31 December of the previous year is exempted from the obligation to provide information under paragraph 1 (1).