Social Media Law

The law on social media marketing – part 7

The internet offers businesses huge potential to foster their advertising and image strategies for low financial outlay. It is therefore hardly surprising that many German businesses maintain online profiles to keep their brand fresh.

The law on social media marketing - hidden advertising © ferkelraggae-Fotolia

The law on social media marketing – hidden advertising © ferkelraggae-Fotolia

The law on social media marketing

Whether businesses use Facebook fan pages, blogs or Twitter, the possibilities are limitless. Or are they?

This series presents an overview of the steps which businesses can take to ensure their social media marketing strategies remain legal.

Part 7 – Hidden advertising

As part of an effective social media strategy, businesses often display positive feedback and messages about their products and the company. There is nothing against such strategies, provided that such texts are clearly recognisable as PR.

In accordance with the rules on transparency (§ 4(3) German Unfair Competition Act; § 6(1) German Telemedia Act), any type of surreptitious advertising is banned. Pseudo-editorial content and positive feedback via fake profiles which cause a reader or viewer to believe that a third person has positively rated a product or company is not allowed. This was confirmed by the Regional Court of Hamburg in a case in which a company posted positive feedback about itself under a pseudonym (03.01.2012; Az. 312 O 715/11)

Similarly, financial rewards should not be offered in return for positive feedback. In a case heard by the Higher Regional Court of Hamm, judges held that a company which offered a 25% discount on products in return for positive feedback on its website infringed competition law (23.11.2010; Az. I-4 U 136/10).

In the same vein, the principle of transparency also applies to publishing negative feedback about competitors.

In summary, transparency means telling the truth. Failing to operate in a transparent manner could lead to costly warning letters and damage a business’ reputation.

It should be remembered, that it is permissible to advertise on your own website, provided the advertising is recognisable and complies with any rules laid down by the service provider.

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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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