The imprint is your business card on the Internet. If you want to run your website or an online shop, you must observe some legal regulations. Specifically, this is about the components of the imprint obligation. An essential part of a website is the imprint. In the supposed anonymity of the Internet, it is critical for the consumer to feel a certain level of security.
So that consumers can get an idea of the company or person behind the website, website operators must provide certain information about their identity. As soon as a website has a commercial background, there is an imprint obligation. To avoid this, in this article, we answer all important questions about the subject of imprint obligations and show you which mandatory information you have to pay attention to.
In A Nutshell: What Is An Imprint?
The term originally comes from press law. In the meantime, however, it has also been established for websites and online shops that are not active in the press area. The imprint is a legally required indication of origin. The pattern indicates who owns a website or who the responsible person is. Information for the track is, for example, the owner’s address so that legal claims can be asserted against him in case of doubt. The consumers or users of a website should know precisely who is behind the website. The imprint should, therefore, primarily ensure more transparency on the Internet.
Therefore, the obligation to publish an imprint serves primarily to protect consumers. Another purpose is to determine in legal disputes who the owner of a website is and be able to take action against him in the event of possible legal violations. The legally correct term for websites is the provider identification requirement. The term “Telemedia” includes various electronic information and communication services. These include webshops, search engines, online auction houses, or web portals.
Who Must Keep An Imprint?
In general, the obligation applies to every website provider as soon as the platform is used for business purposes. Websites for exclusively private purposes are not subject to the imprint obligation. However, if advertising is placed on the privately operated website to earn money, this can justify an imprint obligation. An advertising banner or an affiliate link can turn a website into a commercial one. Even low direct or indirect income via the website is subject to an imprint.
Websites primarily subject to the imprint obligation are online shops or search engines. Accounts in social media such as Instagram and Co. are also obliged to have an imprint as soon as the version is used commercially.
It becomes more complicated with the imprint obligation for websites and blogs that regularly publish content. The obligation applies not only to commercial websites but also to websites with regular editorial content. Unfortunately, it is tough to clarify when a blog or website falls under this criterion, as there are almost no judgments here. If you want to publish content on your website or blog regularly, you should create an imprint in case of doubt. On the other hand, a company’s website constantly needs a path – even if nothing is sold directly on the website.
What Is The Mandatory Information For An Imprint?
If you run a commercial website, you are bound by the imprint obligation to meet specific criteria. That means you have to disclose certain information. It would help if you guaranteed that the imprint could be easily recognized and reached. This means that your path must be visible on your website and can be accessed with just a few clicks. The easiest way is to create a separate page for your imprint and link this page in your website’s navigation menu. This way, you guarantee that your visitors can access your pattern directly from the main page.
Of course, it is also possible to link it in the footer of your website. You have to note that it may take a maximum of two clicks to get to your imprint. Constant availability and accessibility must also be guaranteed for the user. The imprint obligation stipulates that your imprint must constantly work on your website when the site is online. You should, therefore, regularly test the link to your path. In addition, every visitor to your website must be able to read the content of your imprint without restrictions. This means that your print must be barrier-free, and visually impaired people must also be able to access it via their text browser. You should, therefore, never store an image file for your imprint, as text browsers cannot process these.
A mandatory and significant content is the address and contact details, which must be stored in your imprint to fulfill the imprint obligation. The path must always contain all important mandatory information, including your company’s quick and electronic contact. You must state your first and last name, your company’s name, and an exact address. Your private address is by no means sufficient. If your company has a shareholder authorized to represent, this must also be named in the imprint. If there is a supervisory board in the company, at least the first and last name of the chairman should be mentioned. If your company provides a service that requires approval, the responsible supervisory authority must be named.
The mandatory information includes all other essential contact data such as email, telephone, and fax. If you only give a phone number, that’s not enough. At least one other communication channel must be recognizable from the imprint. You are also not allowed to use abbreviations. To comply with the imprint obligation, all information must be included. Simply providing the PO box address is by no means sufficient. You may not abbreviate your first name or replace it with a pseudonym. Your imprint must always be complete. There are still points of contention in the case of abbreviations for the indication of legal forms.
There are no judicial judgments in this case. As a rule, however, it is sufficient if you abbreviate the limited liability company to “GmbH.” The imprint obligation also results in the specification of particular legal forms and the sales tax ID. If your company has a legal document such as a partner company, cooperative, or GmbH, you must enter the commercial register entry. The indication of the sales tax ID is also mandatory for the imprint. If you only use a personal tax number, this does not have to be specified. For stock corporations, limited partnerships, and GmbHs that are wound up or liquidated, information must also be given in the imprint.
It, therefore, differs from company to company as to what must be included in an imprint. In the case of a sole proprietorship, it is usually sufficient to provide your name and address, contact details (telephone/email), VAT ID, and the responsible tax office. There are further mandatory details for partnerships, stock, or limited partnerships and associations. There are different requirements for a legally secure imprint depending on the actual constellation.
What Are The Penalties For Violating The Imprint Obligation?
Violations of the imprint obligation may result in warnings. There is a risk that your competition will take action against you for antitrust violations. In addition, an intentional or negligent breach of the imprint obligation can also constitute an administrative offense. This can result in a fine of up to 50,000 euros. In the case of a warning, three constellations are possible:
- Constellation 1: Your website has no imprint at all. So if you run a commercial website and do not have a pattern, you are violating the imprint obligation and have to expect legal consequences.
- Constellation 2: You keep an imprint, but it is not complete. Common mistakes are, for example, an abbreviated name, the sales tax ID is not given in the track. However, it is available, information on the authorized representative is missing in the case of a limited liability company, etc.
- Constellation 3: You have mismarked your imprint. Some courts do not recognize the designation “About us” or “Mandatory information” as sufficient, so an incorrect assignment can also lead to warnings. For this reason, you should choose the term “imprint” for the anchor text.
So that it doesn’t get that far, you should think about your imprint and, if in doubt, consult an expert. Even if you have received a warning due to a violation of the imprint obligation, you should contact a competent lawyer. He can check exactly whether your information corresponds to the imprint obligation and, in the best case, initiate an agreement with the person issuing the warning.
Imprint Obligation: Conclusion
To avoid a warning or a fine, you should comply with the imprint obligation. If you create an online shop or a website for your company, then you must have an imprint and make it easily accessible for your visitors. If you use social media for your company, a path must also be linked to your profile. Make sure that the information is complete and regularly check that the information you provide is up to date. It is also essential that the imprints on your social media channels match.