Why do people use websites for business purposes?

Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection

Many companies offer customers their goods or services online. So that users still know which provider they are dealing with, the legislator has introduced the imprint obligation. Who does this meet? And what information must be included?

What is an imprint?

Almost all website operators have to provide users with certain information about their identity. The legislator has regulated this in the Telemedia Act (TMG). There he speaks of general information requirements.

The imprint is a kind of business card. The person who uses the site should have the opportunity to check the seriousness of the provider. Consumers should be able to get an idea of ​​the company or the person behind the website, contact them and, if necessary, also assert legal claims against them.

Who has to provide an imprint?

Section 5 of the German Telemedia Act (TMG) regulates who is subject to the legal notice. Basically, it can be said that the obligation applies to all providers of a website if the platform serves business purposes. This means that pages that are used exclusively for private purposes do not come under the imprint obligation (Section 55 of the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty speaks of "exclusively personal or family purposes").

Important: If advertising is placed on the privately used page, with which money is earned, this can establish an imprint obligation.

Above all, sales platforms such as online shops and search engines must provide an imprint. However, accounts in social networks such as Facebook and Co. also require an imprint if the account is also used commercially, for example for job advertisements.

The activity must be designed for a longer period of time. What is meant by this is that there is no need to provide an imprint for merely occasional activities such as rare sales on an auction platform.

§ 5 TMG also speaks of "telemedia usually offered for a fee". It is therefore sufficient if money can be earned on the market with the service offered. The provider does not necessarily have to do this.

What must an imprint contain?

There are certain minimum requirements for the imprint. In addition, the law stipulates the obligation to provide further information for various groups. But now first to the general requirements. After that, the imprint must contain:

  • the name (for natural persons it is first and last name. For companies, i.e. so-called legal persons, the company name as well as the surname and first name of the authorized representative),
  • in the case of legal persons also the legal form,
  • the address (street, house number, postcode and city. A PO box is not sufficient),
  • a contact that you can use to reach the person or company quickly - electronically as well as non-electronically. Usually these are your email address and telephone number,
  • if available, the sales tax or business tax identification number,
  • also, if available, the trade, association, partnership or cooperative register with registration number.

In addition, certain professional groups such as brokers, restaurants or insurance companies must indicate the supervisory authority responsible for them. The operator should name the website and the address of the authority. Reason: If the operator violates a professional obligation, consumers should have a contact person.

Providers who practice a regulated profession (lawyers, tax consultants, notaries, etc.) must indicate the competent chamber as well as their professional title and the state in which they were awarded the professional title. They must also indicate the regulations that govern their profession and where they can be found.

If the operator offers journalistic and editorial content on his website, a person responsible must also be given with name and address (Section 55 (2) of the State Broadcasting Treaty). In the case of newspapers or magazines, these are usually the managing director and editor-in-chief.

Since 2016, online providers who also offer their goods or services to consumers have also had to provide a link to the online dispute settlement platform. This is valid across the EU.

In addition, a company must also inform consumers whether it is willing or obliged to take part in a consumer arbitration procedure. If this is the case, the responsible consumer arbitration board must be named, including its contact details (address and website). The information according to the VSBG must appear easily accessible on the entrepreneur's website, whereby the entrepreneur is free to decide whether this should be done in the imprint or at another location on the website, as long as easy access is guaranteed.

Where does the imprint have to be?

For most providers, the imprint can be found via a link. That is sufficient as long as this link is clearly visible and can be accessed from every page. The law speaks of “easily recognizable, immediately accessible and always available”.

The link should also have a clear name such as “Imprint” or “Contact” so that everyone can understand what is behind it. It is not sufficient if a provider hides the information in its general terms and conditions or if special reading programs are necessary to call up the imprint.

What if an imprint is missing?

If a provider has not provided an imprint, although he is legally obliged to do so, he faces a fine of up to 50,000 euros. In addition, he commits a competition violation. This can result in injunctive relief, which are not infrequently enforced with the help of chargeable warnings.

The e-commerce liaison office in Germany provides further information on its website under the menu items: "Topics", "Internet presence" and "Imprint obligation". The brochure “The Imprint on the Internet” with more detailed information is also available for download here.

Further information

additional Information

  • TMG § 5
  • General information requirements
  • www.internet-guetesiegel.de
  • The monitoring board of the quality seal providers is developing the D21 quality criteria further and monitoring compliance by all recommended providers.
  • e-commerce liaison office
  • National liaison office for electronic commerce in accordance with the requirements of the European E-Commerce Directive