By Ivan Bremers, legal advisor at Händlerbund
When it comes to B2C e-commerce sales, Germany is one of the top 10 in Europe. In 2016, more than €44 billion was spent on purchases. So,why wouldn’t you want to take part? Many German sellers have also been conquering the European market thanks to cross-border business. But if your business is considering entering the German market, you should know that in Germany there are strict consumer protection laws.
Germany is well known for having a high level of consumer protection. This is especially true when it comes to cross-border selling as this consists of many rules to protect consumers from thoughtless orders or the way to cancel them, so retailers must provide a large amount of information before an online purchase can be carried out. Before the consumer is bound by a contract, the retailer shall provide the consumer with the following information in a clear and comprehensible manner:
Retailers must provide their information, such as their official name and the address at which they are established. Also, the merchant has to provide their telephone number (and optionally the fax number). Retailers are also obligated to provide information about the European Online Dispute Resolution (http://ec.europa.eu/odr).
The last changes to consumer withdrawal in Germany were made in 2014. Sellers have to inform consumers about the right to withdraw, length of time allowed (14 days in Germany), the procedure, the cost and the effects of withdrawing prior to entering into a contract with the customer. Sellers also need to inform the consumer as to the circumstances that would hinder withdrawal.
To go through with the withdrawal, German legislature requires a standard consumer withdrawal form that has to be communicated and submitted.
The consumer also has to be informed as to the arrangements for payment (payment methods) and how long it will take to deliver deliver the goods to the consumer.
Furthermore, retailers must inform shoppers about the main characteristics of the goods (colour, form, dimensions) and the total price of the goods or services including taxes.
Data protection plays a very important role in online retail. On the basis of data protection law, sellers are obliged to inform their online visitors about data collection, processing and use of personal data. Attention should be paid to using social media plugins and commercial tracking. In future, data protection will become uniform because of the EU-DSGVO that gives a standard for the whole of Europe.
The disregard or misinterpretation of the above-mentioned information could cause expensive written warnings from competitors or consumer protection associations, a common occurrence on the German market. Merchants should use standard business terms to regulate the creation and important conditions of a contract, such as liability or choice of law. Although the use of such general terms and conditions is not obligatory in Germany, they can show the above-mentioned information in one place and are therefore advantageous.
As a customer of Lengow you receive a 3-month discount on a membership package for legally secure texts at Händlerbund in the first year of contract by using the following discount code: P1084#2018.