New rules on unfair business practices adopted in Germany

On 27.6.2013 the German parliament approved a new law designed to protect consumers and small businesses from improper and unfair business practices.

Unfair business practices © ferkelraggae-Fotolia

New rules on unfair business practices adopted in Germany © ferkelraggae-Fotolia

Unfair business practices

Under the new law on unfair business practices, costs of file sharing warning letters are to be capped, contracts for telephone competitions will need to be in writing and debt collection processes will become more transparent.

File sharing warning letter fees capped

Many individuals and small businesses in Germany receive warning letters for having infringed copyright through file sharing. The warning letters usually contain exaggerated demands for payment of legal fees incurred by the copyright holder who sent the letter.

The aim of the new law is to provide protection to recipients of warning letters by capping lawyers’ fees. As a result, the fees for the first warning letter sent to a private individual will be capped at €155.30. Also, there must be a correlation between the particular legal infringement and the resulting damages sought.

Furthermore, jurisdiction to hear claims will be restricted to the individual’s place of residence. This means that copyright holders will no longer be able to choose the most favourable court before which to bring their claim.

However, the new rules have been criticised for allowing an exception to the cap on fees. Under the exception, copyright holders will be able to demand higher legal fees if they are justified by special circumstances.

Telephone competition protection

The new law prohibits the conclusion of contracts for competitions over the telephone. Such contracts will only be valid if they are in writing.

The aim of this provision is to prevent individuals from being overburdened by contracts concluded via telephone.

In addition, fines for prohibited cold calls will drastically increase.

Protection from vague debt collection demands

Letters from debt collection companies will need to comply with strict requirements as to the content. They will have to contain information as to whom the debt collection company represents, the basis for the letter and a precise calculation of the sums being demanded.

To address the problem of exaggerated debt collection claims, the new rules regulate the amounts debt collection companies can claim. These will be restricted to the amount a lawyer would be able to claim for a particular service.

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Christian Solmecke ist Partner der Kanzlei WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE und inbesondere in den Bereichen des IT-, des Medien- und des Internetrechts tätig. Darüber hinaus ist er Autor zahlreicher juristischer Fachveröffentlichungen in diesen Bereichen.

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  1. Paul Bennett sagt:


    i was dealing with a German e-commerce company with regards to a list of e-commerce platform users across US and UK.
    The company asked us to send him a 100 samples before we sign the agreement. I sent him the samples and after a few days, we agreed for a transaction on terms that he has to sign up for the service the same day. I did a little aggressive follow-ups to make sure that we finish the formalities but i did not receive any response from the company representative.
    Next day, i receive an email from him saying that the deal is off since the samples i provided are wrong. i verified the samples that we provided him and it turned out that all the samples were 100% accurate. Now, he is not ready to sign up for it and he is not replying back to my emails.
    The only thing that i want from him is pay us for the samples that we provided him.

    The cost of the samples is $1,500.00

    Can somebody help me with this?


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