According to a study conducted by the Händlerbund [German Retailers’ Association], almost every fourth online retailer in Germany received a written warning last year for alleged or actual violations of the law, and every third even received multiple warnings. 57 percent of the cases involved data privacy violations. One third of the warnings referred to competition law. The remaining cases related to copyright, trademark law and the Packaging Act. Four out of ten cases involved four-digit costs for the retailer. It can add up quickly in the legal environment.
It’s therefore worth taking a look at the services offered by the various service providers for legal assistance in online trading. For you as trader, they can not only allay your fear of a protracted and expensive legal dispute, but in many cases also show you when it is not advisable to sign a cease-and-desist declaration. The providers range from law firms specializing in commercial law, such as IT-Recht-Kanzlei, to retailer associations such as Retailers’ Associations and shop networks like Trusted Shops. In the case of emergency, legal assistance can be obtained here in the form of a subscription model and users can regularly compare their own webshop with the applicable legal provisions. By the way, the networks often also offer labels or tips for your own webshop which serve as a sign to lawyers who like to send written warnings that they have found their match here.
Legally compliant texts for the webshop and legal assistance
The most important core element, which all offers include more or less comprehensively, are legally binding texts for general terms and conditions, imprint, and data protection and cancellation policy. All services are based primarily on German law, but some services, such as Trusted Shops or the Händlerbund, also offer solutions in other languages for other EU markets in which you might trade. It is also helpful to have special GTC adaptations, such as those offered by IT-Recht-Kanzlei for all conventional and various exotic trading platforms and social media services.
More stumbling blocks lurk within the shop itself: Some of the services will use checklists and word lists to check the correct terminology for food supplements, basic price information (not only) for foods or other industry-specific features individually upon request. In this case, the online retailer always receives a protocol with specific instructions on what needs to be done, for example on where certain information has to be listed in a legally secure manner. It is also helpful to receive regular information on legislative changes, sometimes combined with corresponding tips on how to implement the regulation in the best possible way.
Collection and brand protection as additional business
In all cases, the providers declare that they are responsible for the correctness of the legal texts supplied. It is good to find services that not only adopt financially liability for these, but also activate the corresponding lawyers when a written warning flutters through the letterbox. However, as such services do not cover all risks, it is certainly worthwhile for dealers to have a commercial legal protection insurance policy which, for example, Protected Shops offers as part of its premium package in cooperation with the insurance company Arag.
Non-payment can also quickly become an existential problem for traders. Some of the legal services, such as IT-Recht-Kanzlei, support dealers free of charge in collecting outstanding payments. This is a good deal for all involved, as the service providers recover their expenses from the debtors. And it does not involve a high risk for the lawyer, especially in out-of-court cases. A service that can be particularly important for private label dealers is the monitoring of brand deadlines and applications as well as – bookable as an optional extra – trademark infringements by others, as also provided by IT-Recht-Kanzlei.
Conclusion: Legal services keep an eye on legislative changes
Deciding which offer is the right one for you as online trader depends on your personal situation: A small food retailer will have different needs than international shipping company in the B2B environment. It is extremely difficult to compare the offers here, as other components such as shop seals, labor law protection or professional association work are sometimes involved.
“For dealers, written warning protection and legal protection is worthwhile even just due to the fact that there are constantly new laws and rulings and it’s impossible to keep an overview of these,” says attorney Carsten Föhlisch from Trusted Shops, summing up the situation. Operators of smaller shops in particular should not conduct their business without legal support. Because each warning, even if it does not result in a court dispute, might be costlier to the nerves and the wallet than the fees for a subscription contract.