Online advertising with quality seals: Transparency is mandatory!

OLG Bremen clarifies: Companies must make test criteria for quality seals easily accessible in advertising

In a landmark ruling from January 24, 2024 (Ref. 2 U 60/23), the Bremen Higher Regional Court (OLG) has once again tightened the requirements for online advertising with quality seals. The court ruled that companies advertising with quality seals must not only emphasize the existence of these seals, but must also make the test criteria behind them easily accessible and understandable for consumers.

Seal of approval Test seal Competition law UWG

Background to the judgment:

An online retailer advertised a fitness stool with the "LGA tested" seal of approval on its website. However, he failed to state the test criteria for the seal or provide a link to them. An association for combating unfair competition ("Wettbewerbszentrale") saw this as misleading consumers and warned the retailer for Violation of competition law off. As the latter did not comply with the warning, the Wettbewerbszentrale took legal action.

The core statements of the judgment:

The OLG Bremen followed the arguments of the Wettbewerbszentrale and found that the online retailer's advertising was misleading within the meaning of Section 5 (1) No. 1 UWG. The test criteria for a seal of approval are relevant for consumers' purchasing decisions, as they provide information about which properties of the product have been tested and according to which standards the test was carried out.

The court emphasized that consumers can legitimately assume that a product bearing a seal of approval meets certain quality and safety standards. However, if the test criteria for the seal are not accessible, consumers cannot make this assessment and are therefore influenced in their purchasing decision.

Practical consequences for companies:

The ruling of the Higher Regional Court of Bremen has far-reaching consequences for companies that advertise with quality seals in their online advertising. They must now ensure that the test criteria for the seals used are easily accessible and understandable for consumers.

Recommendations for companies:

In order to comply with the legal requirements of the OLG Bremen ruling and avoid warnings under competition law, companies should take the following steps:

  1. Create transparency: Specify the test criteria for quality seals directly on the product page. Avoid hiding the information in terms and conditions or other legal notices.
  2. Ensure comprehensibility: Formulate the information clearly and comprehensibly. Use an easily visible font size and color scheme.
  3. Ensure accessibility: Provide a link to the test criteria if they cannot be displayed directly on the product page.
  4. Obtain legal advice: In the event of uncertainties or complex issues, you should contact a lawyer specializing in competition law.

Legal background:

The decision of the OLG Bremen is based on the principles of the Fair trading lawin particular on the prohibition of misleading advertising under § Section 5 (1) No. 1 UWG. Accordingly, advertising is misleading if it is likely to influence the consumer's purchasing decision and thereby cause him to make a business decision that he would not otherwise have made.

According to the OLG Bremen, the test criteria for quality seals are essential information that is relevant for consumers' purchasing decisions. If this information is withheld, this constitutes misleading information.

Conclusion and outlook:

The ruling of the OLG Bremen underlines the importance of transparency and consumer-friendliness in online advertising. Companies that advertise with quality seals must take the legitimate information needs of consumers seriously and make the necessary information easily accessible to them. Only in this way can they ensure that their advertising is legally impeccable and does not jeopardize consumer trust.

It is to be expected that the decision of the OLG Bremen will have a signal effect and will lead to a stronger enforcement of transparency obligations in online advertising with quality seals. Companies should therefore review their advertising strategies and adapt them if necessary in order to meet the legal requirements.

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