09. October 2013
Under e-commerce law, strict rules apply to the design of commercial websites. It is important that the “buy now button” is clearly visible. Recent decisions by the courts in Germany show that a strict approach is being taken.
Buy now button
Online businesses should ensure they comply with e-commerce regulations by clearly displaying the “buy now button”. They should also make sure that their website is designed in such a way that it is easy for consumers to find important information.
If online traders fail to abide by e-commerce regulations they could receive warning letters from their competitors.
A recent case heard by the Regional Court of Berlin shows that when it comes to the design of order now buttons judges in Germany are taking a strict approach (case ref.: 97 O 5/13).
The case concerned a coach tour company which offered an online booking facility. The company’s website displayed an order button containing the text: “Click here to register! (travel contract and payment)”. Important obligatory information was also delayed below the order button.
The travel company then received a warning letter from a competitor. The competitor argued that the buy now button did not display the correct text and that the important information should not have appeared below the button.
After the travel company refused to sign a declaration to cease and desist, the competitor brought a court action before the Berlin court.
Obligation to pay must be clear
The court found in favour of the competitor. It referred to § 312g (3) of the German Civil Code under which a buy now button must clearly indicate to the consumer that they are entering an obligation to pay. The button must also clearly demonstrate the legally binding nature of the order.
The court clarified that only words such as “buy now” or other similarly clear formulations convey the legal consequences involved. In the judges’ opinion the words “click here to register” did not go far enough in informing consumers of the consequences of their actions.
No important information below the order button
The court also ruled that displaying obligatory information below the order button breached German civil law (§ 312g (2) German Civil Code). It made clear that such information must be actively brought to the attention of consumers before an order is placed.
Online businesses should ensure that their buy now button contains only the words “buy now” or other similarly clear phrases.
They should also double check that important obligatory information is not displayed below the button, but is actively brought to consumers’ attention before they place an order.
The order button itself should be displayed in such a position that it is clearly visible to users and is not at the bottom of the page.
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