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The imprint obligation: The legal must for your website

Are you a company that offers goods or services online or runs a public company website? Then you are generally obliged to provide an imprint on your website.

Legislation has introduced the obligation to provide a legal notice so that users know which provider they are dealing with.

Are you unsure what information belongs in the legal notice? Digitale Gründung helps you to get an overview of all mandatory information so that you can present a legally complete legal notice on your website.

What is an imprint?

If you operate a website that serves a business purpose, for example as a provider of goods or services via a website, you must provide certain information about your identity. You provide this information in the legal notice. The imprint serves the purpose of transparency towards website users. They should be able to check your reliability, contact you or make legal claims against you as simply and easily as possible.

The legislator regulates this obligation in the German Telemedia Act (TMG).

Who is subject to the imprint obligation?

All providers of a website who pursue a business purpose with their platform are generally subject to the imprint obligation. However, if you use your website exclusively for private purposes, you are not subject to this obligation. This is the case, for example, if your website is only aimed at your friends or family.

Section 5 of the German Telemedia Act (TMG) states that the imprint obligation exists “for commercial telemedia that is generally offered for a fee” on your website. In practice, this means that even a privately used site that places advertising with which money is earned can justify an imprint obligation.

So be careful: it is enough if you can earn money on the market with the service offered on the platform.

Here you will find a non-exhaustive list of examples of online companies and formats that are subject to the imprint obligation:

  • Online stores
  • Search engines
  • Provider of products and services
  • Accounts in social networks (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) if the account is used commercially (promotion of products, job advertisements, work as an influencer)

What must the legal notice contain?

The following information applies as minimum information in the imprint according to § 5 I TMG:

The name

The first and last name of natural persons must be stated. In the case of companies (so-called legal entities), the full company name as well as the surname and first name of the authorised representative must be listed.

The legal form

In the case of legal entities, the legal form must be stated. This can be any legal form, such as a GmbH or AG.

The address

The address at which the legal/natural person is established. This includes city, street, house number, postal code. It is not sufficient to specify a simple PO box.

Information for quick electronic contact

This contact must enable immediate and direct contact to be made. The electronic mail address is also provided. As a rule, you enter your e-mail address and telephone number. It is particularly important that there are two ways of making direct and immediate contact.

Information on the share capital

If share capital is to be paid up, details of the company’s capital(share capital and nominal capital) must be provided and, if not all of it is paid up in cash, the total amount of outstanding contributions must be stated.

Value added tax or business tax identification number

This is indicated if it is available for your company.

Commercial, association, partnership, company or cooperative register with register number

These are specified insofar as they are available for your company.

In addition, there is information that must be listed for specific company fields or occupational groups:

Information on the competent supervisory authority

Certain professional groups (brokers, catering businesses or insurance companies) to which a competent supervisory authority is assigned must specify this authority.

The website and address of the authority are given. In the event of a breach of a professional obligation by the operator, consumers can contact the relevant authority.

Indication of the competent chamber and professional title, indication of the country

Regulated professions (lawyers, tax consultants, notaries, etc.) must state the competent chamber, their professional title, the state in which the professional title was awarded and the regulation that governs their profession and where this regulation can be found.

Specification of a responsible person for journalistic/editorial content

In the case of journalistic/editorial content, the name and address of the person responsible must be stated (usually the managing directors and editors-in-chief in the case of newspapers).

Link to the online dispute resolution platform

If goods or services are offered, a link to the online dispute resolution platform must be provided for the consumer.

Information on the consumer arbitration board

The company must inform consumers whether it is willing or obliged to participate in a consumer arbitration procedure. If this is the case, the competent consumer arbitration board must be listed, stating its contact details (address and website). This information does not necessarily have to be located in the legal notice and can also appear in an easily accessible place on the website.

Where must the legal notice be visible?

The German Telemedia Act states that the legal notice must be “easily recognisable, directly accessible and permanently available“. When placing your legal notice on the company website, the focus is on the clarity and transparency of your identity data so that your users also enjoy legal certainty.

As a provider, you can make your legal notice accessible via a link on your website. If the link is clearly visible and can be accessed from any page, this satisfies the legal requirements.

Give your link a unique name (“Imprint”) so that your users can understand what is behind the link. Above all, make sure that your imprint data is not just hidden in your general terms and conditions. This would not meet the legal requirements.

What happens if the imprint is missing?

If you violate the imprint obligation, although you are obliged to do so by law, this constitutes an infringement of competition law. You could face fines of up to 50,000 euros. In addition, claims for injunctive relief can be justified, which can be enforced by issuing warnings subject to a fee.

Digitale Gründung supports you in preparing your legal notice so that you can present your company on the Internet in a legally compliant and reputable manner.

Conclusion:

If you offer goods or services online in your company, you are generally obliged to provide an imprint on your website. The legal notice provides information about you as a provider so that your customers have an overview of your identity. This is intended to create legal certainty and transparency. The legislator regulates this obligation in the German Telemedia Act (TMG). This obligation includes a list of information that you as the operator are obliged to clearly display on your website. An incorrect legal notice can constitute a breach of competition law and result in fines.

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