The courts in Germany have consistently applied advertising law principles which require businesses to provide background information in print advertising. Newspaper and other written publication advertising should contain detailed information on who has financed it.
German advertising law and the duty to provide information
In a recent case, a company had described itself in a newspaper advertisement simply as a car dealership. A competitor of the dealership brought a court claim.
The Erfurt Regional Court ruled that concrete details relating to the business’ identity were missing. The advertisement therefore misled consumers and violated § 5a(3) no. 2 of the German Unfair Competition Act (case ref. 1 HK O 133/13).
Information in print advertising
Businesses should be aware that broad obligations exist, requiring businesses to provide information to consumers not only in the online sphere, but also in newspaper and magazine advertisements. This has been confirmed by a string of consistent judgments on the matter (see for example: LG Hamburg, case ref.: 327 O 116/13, OLG Schleswig-Holstein, case ref.: 6 U 28/12), OLG Hamm, case ref.: I-4 U 61/12).
In particular, it is insufficient for businesses to refer consumers in their print advertising to a website to obtain further details about the company.
Similar to the legal notices on a website, businesses should ensure that their print advertising contains precise and true details concerning the company. This includes the company’s correct identity, business form and address.
The logic behind this obligation is to ensure that companies can be contacted when there is a problem with a product and that consumers know where to send a court claim if need be. If details on the business form and address are missing, it is not possible to bring a lawsuit, as it is unclear against whom it should be brought.