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Consumer protection :

hiding prices in small print breaches German competition law

The Regional Appeal Court of Cologne has ruled that displaying prices in small footnotes can breach German competition law (Az.: 6U 114/12). Prices on advertising posters must be clearly visible to the consumer when standing in front of then.

Displaying prices in small print

The case concerned an electronics specialist which had displayed an advertisement on a poster stand outside the shop. The poster included a footnote at ground level which contained further information about the products being advertised. The footnote was comprehensive and the text was very small. As a result, it was difficult to read.  The court allowed an injunctino on the basis that the prices displayed were too small.

Regulation on the Display of Prices

The judges ruled that a footnote dispalying pricing information in this way amounted to a competition infringement and breached the Regulations on the Display of Prices (Preisangabenverordnung, PAngV).

The court argued that prices should be displayed in common sense positions, be easily recognisable and easily readable. It is contrary to the principle of the PAngV if information is legible, but the consumer must first kneel down to properly obtain all relevant information concerning an offer.

The court rejected the electronic store’s argument that the pricing display requirements in this case were lower as the consumers towards whom the advertising was directed were technophiles.

Conclusion

The decision demonstrates that it is possible to display prices in footnotes and small print, but the court has set a high standard concerning the visual requirements.

A business wishing to advertise its products on a poster stand, should ensure that the prices are displayed in an easily recognisable and easily readable manner. Failure to do so could result in a business infringing German competition law.