For websites related to Germany and held by individuals or entities based in Germany, the website has to provide certain legal information, especially an imprint with information on the owner of the website and the contact details. German websites are defined as being published by individuals or organizations that are based in Germany, so that an imprint and legal information are required regardless of whether a site is in the .de domain or any other (.com/.co.uk) domain.
In case of non-compliance, the owner of the website might face a fine amounting up to EUR 50,000. This legislation aims at the protection of the consumers, but it is meant to be also in the interest of business enterprises which are thus able to obtain information about their competitors, e.g. in order to enforce fair competitive practices.
The law prescribes that online service providers offering tele-media on a commercial basis are obliged to provide information in a way that is “easy to identify, directly accessible and constantly available”. Therefore, the minimum content for a commercial company’s website are: Full firm name and address of the Company; names of the managing directors of the company or the representatives; telephone number, fax number and email address of the company; the responsible court of registration and company registration number; VAT identification number. In case the business is subject to review or approval of any regulatory authority, the website owner will have to provide also information on the regulatory framework and the responsible supervisory bodies. This may apply, for instance, for food and nutrition, chemicals, feed and other businesses.
Therefore, the actual requirements for the imprint and other legal notices will differ from case to case.
Foreign businesses should check their website and, as the case may be, consult their advisors with regard to compliance with German media law. Apart from the above mentioned fine of EUR 50,000, certain law firms have made a business out of suing website owners who do not provide proper imprint and legal information on their website.
If you require further assistance to operate your corporate website in Germany, please contact our cooperation partner Counselhouse.