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Consumer or entrepreneur?

The two terms consumer and entrepreneur are frequently used in legal terminology. The term consumer is also frequently used in everyday language, as there are special protective regulations for consumers. Many consumer protection regulations must be complied with, especially in online trading.

When are you considered a consumer and at what point do you become an entrepreneur?

The German Civil Code has legally defined the terms consumer and entrepreneur in Sections 13 and 14 BGB.

Accordingly, a “consumer […] is any natural person who enters into a legal transaction for purposes which are predominantly outside his trade, business or profession.”

On the other hand, an “entrepreneur […] is a natural or legal person or a partnership with legal capacity that acts in the exercise of its commercial or independent professional activity when concluding a legal transaction.”

If you buy something for yourself privately, you are considered a consumer. In the case of an online purchase, you are entitled to certain statutory protective rights that are usually not granted to entrepreneurs, such as the right of withdrawal.

For example, if you buy something as the managing director of a GmbH for the GmbH, you are considered an entrepreneur. The special consumer protection is no longer given.

CAUTION! Start-ups are not consumers!

Even in the start-up phase of a company, the highest court has ruled that you are acting as an entrepreneur and are not considered a consumer. This was confirmed by the BGH in its decision of February 24, 2005 (case reference: III ZB 36/04).

This means that start-ups can no longer claim consumer protection regulations for themselves during the start-up phase.


Start-ups are not consumers! Even in the start-up phase, business founders can no longer claim consumer protection regulations for themselves.

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