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Legal notices on social media profiles

Many businesses are unaware that the obligation to display legal notices applies to social media profiles as well as to websites. Private individuals are the only internet users who are exempt from this obligation. Here is an explanation of the various requirements.

Legal notices on social media profiles ©-ferkelraggae-Fotolia-Fotolia_31081868_XS

Legal notices on social media profiles ©-ferkelraggae-Fotolia-Fotolia_31081868_XS

Legal notices on social media profiles

Under German telecommunications law, non-private operators of websites, blogs or social media profiles must display legal notices. Only purely private social media profiles are exempt from this obligation.

Obligatory information

Commercially operated websites are subject to § 5 of the German Telemedia Act. This paragraph requires operators to provide the following obligatory information:

  • Name and address of establishment; legal form; person authorised to represent the entity; details of the nominal capital and the sum of any cash capital not yet paid
  • Details that allow for speedy electronic and direct communication with the service provider, including e-mail address
  • Regulatory authority registration details (where applicable)
  • Registration details and number entered in the trade register, association register, partnership register or cooperative register

“The obligation to provide this information applies to all social media platforms,” German lawyer, Christian Solmecke, explains.

Access to the legal notices

Providing transparent access to the legal notices section is just as important as ensuring that the content of the notices is correct. The link must be easily recognisable and rapidly accessible.

The requirement “easily recognisable” is satisfied when the link is located in a position that is easy to see and can be found without much searching. The best option is to ensure that the legal notices link is available on every page of a website or social media profile.

Germany’s Federal Court of Justice accepts, at the most, two clicks in order to be able to access legal notices (BGH judgment from 20.07.2006, case ref. I ZR 228/03). It should be noted that the Aschaffenburg district court found that it was not sufficient to display legal notice information under the heading “info” (judgment from 19.08.2011, case ref. 2 HK O 54/11).

Here at WILDE BEUGER SOLMECE we recommend creating a separate heading entitled “legal notices”. Increased attention should also be paid when social media platforms change their design,” Christian Solmecke states.

Warning letters for failure to display legal notices

The failure to display a correct legal notice or any legal notice at all is deemed a breach of German competition law and can lead to competitors sending costly warning letters.

Even apps are not excluded from the obligation to display legal notices (see OLG Hamm, judgment from 20.5.2010, case ref. I-4 U 225/09).

Competitors who discover a breach (such as the lack of legal notices on a Facebook app profile) and send warning letters currently set a contractual penalty of around €3,000. Warning letters can also sent when a business provides incorrect or out-dated information in the legal notices section.

Businesses that change their address, legal form or other legal notice information should ensure that the information is updated on all websites, blogs and social media profiles.

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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