Your company’s Impressum (legal disclosure) is an important part of your online presence in Germany! Operating a company website that doesn’t comply with legal regulations may lead to consequences, such as Abmahnungen: official written warnings that are often accompanied by fines. Simply not being aware of current laws won’t protect you. The same goes for your website’s Impressum, or legal disclosure, so be sure yours is legally sound with our free downloadable legal disclosure template for UGs and GmbHs!
Of course! Every commercially operated website must include a legal disclosure – no exceptions. This means that every instance of a corporation’s internet presence is subject to the Impressumspflicht, or the obligation to display a legal disclosure.
Where should the Impressum be placed?
Your website’s legal disclosure can’t be hidden. It must be ‘easily recognisable, immediately reachable and constantly accessible’ – but what does that mean for your website’s design?
Even if there are no exact legal specifications for how an Impressum should be integrated into a website, the following requirements must be met:
- Reachable from every subpage
- Reachable via a clickable link that is clearly titled as ‘Legal disclosure’ or ‘Impressum’
- Reachable via a link in a fixed sidebar menu or in the header or footer section of the website
- Constantly accessible
What common mistakes should I avoid when designing my website?
Designating your legal disclosure with a general term like ‘legal’ or ‘contact’ does not make it ‘easily recognisable’ and therefore does not fulfil that legal criterion. Your legal disclosure should therefore always be clearly designated as such. Vague designations such as ‘Info’ or ‘Behind the scenes’ are not allowed.
Hidden legal disclosures
You may not place your legal disclosure in a pop-up window or make it an item in a drop-down menu, as doing so would not make it ‘immediately reachable’ to the user. As soon as more than two clicks are necessary to reach it, or if access can be blocked by browser extensions like pop-up blockers, your website can be subject to fines. It also isn’t enough to simply include the disclosure in your website’s terms and conditions. It is only considered immediately reachable when the user can reach it in two clicks or less. This was decided by Germany’s Federal Supreme Court in 2006.
Disclosures that can only be found on the homepage
Every website has static and dynamic elements. One example is Facebook’s navigation bar, which always appears in the website’s header, no matter what subpage is displayed. The website’s footer is usually fixed as well, and never changes. These are the website elements into which your company’s legal disclosure must be integrated.
A clickable legal disclosure that can only be reached from the homepage or from certain subpages does not fulfil the criterion of being immediately reachable.
Even if your disclosure is complete and legally watertight, its accessibility is still crucial when it comes to whether or not you will receive an Abmahnung. You may also receive an Abmahnung for not complying with placement and reachability specifications.
To make sure your GmbH’s legal disclosure is constantly accessible, it must be displayed in a way that is compatible with the common standard browsers. Responsiveness is also an important factor here: The disclosure must be perfectly viewable on smartphones, tablets and other devices. If the necessary compatibility is lacking, you may receive an Abmahnung.
What information must be included in the legal disclosures for UGs and GmbHs?
- “Disclosures in accordance with § 5 TMG” (“Angaben gemäß § 5 TMG”) as a lead in
- Contact information
- Company name and legal company form designation (‘GmbH’ or ‘UG (haftungsbeschränkt)’)
- Supplemental designation following the company name if your company is currently being incorporated (in Gründung – i. G.) or liquidated (in Abwicklung – i. A.)
- Address of the business’s head office
- Contact email address (clickable)
- Link to the website’s homepage (clickable)
- Commercial register entry/Handelsregistereintrag information (as soon as it is obtained)
- Registry court (Registergericht)
- Register number (Registernummer)
- First and last name of the managing director/Geschäftsführer (authorised representative)
- VAT ID number/Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer (if applicable)
Every GmbH or UG (haftungsbeschränkt) must list these details (at least) in its legal disclosure.
Example: Legal disclosure for a GmbH
Disclosures in accordance with § 5 TMG:
Angaben gemäß § 5 TMG:
Example Company Name GmbH
1 12345 Example City
01234 – 567890-1
Registry court: Example City
(Registergericht: Example City )
Register number: HRB 666666
(Registernummer: HRB 666666)
Authorised representative/Managing director: Jane Founder
(Vertretungsberechtigte Geschäftsführer: Jane Founder )
VAT ID number in accordance with § 27a UStG:
(Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer nach § 27a UStG:
Disclosing additional information
There are certain cases in which your company may have to provide supplementary information. Be sure to find out which additional details you have to publish in your specific company’s legal disclosure.
If your company’s website provides editorial or journalistic content, the responsible editors’ names and places of residence must be provided. This applies to service providers that operate blogs, publish industry-specific news or manage a community, for example. This information can be introduced as follows:
“Responsible for this content [of the blog or the like] in accordance with § 55 (2) RStV:”
(“Verantwortlich für den Inhalt [des Blogs o. ä.] nach § 55 Abs. 2 RStV”)
Trades requiring a licence
If you are running a business that requires a trade licence (Gewerbeerlaubnis), you must disclose the addresses, telephone numbers and websites of the relevant supervisory authorities. Arms dealers, for example, must include their Ordnungsamt (competent public order office) in their legal disclosures.
Occupations that require association membership
Professionals engaged in corporations who are required to become members in their industry’s professional association – such as tax advisers, doctors or lawyers – must include the association’s address, telephone number, and website in their legal disclosure.
Online merchants and e-commerce
If you distribute products or offer services through your website, your disclosure must point to the EU dispute settlement body and include an email address to which customers can send complaints. At the least, the online dispute resolution link must be clickable. This information is meant to help consumers orient themselves when a dispute arises and, if necessary, contact the relevant EU authority.
Take a look at our legal disclosure template for GmbHs and UGs to get a good idea as to how the information should be arranged.
English → Legal disclosure template for GmbHs and UGs (downloadable PDF)
Please note that this is only an example comprised of standardised elements. Using this template does not guarantee that you won’t receive an Abmahnung.
Why does my corporation need an Impressum?
Website owners have been obligated to operate transparently for some time now – even before the GDPR came into effect in 2018. It should be possible for all website users to access information about and contact those responsible for the contents of a website. Over the course of the past few years, the laws governing the publication of this information have become increasingly stricter, aiming to better protect data and prevent cybercrime.
This wasn’t always the case. Back when the internet was still new, there was little or no information to be found about the then-active website operators. In cases of fraud, consumers could only wonder exactly who was ripping them off, with few means to take legal measures. Legislative reforms have since remedied this.
The information legal disclosures contain is there to help consumers take legal measures in case of a dispute. This is meant to protect website users from a legal point of view.
A correctly written legal disclosure doesn’t just protect your company from Abmahnungen – it also creates trust with your website’s visitors. Nearly half of the participants in a Bitkom survey from 2017 said that a website’s legal disclosure was a key factor in judging its integrity. Moreover, a legal disclosure also gives your visitors the chance to contact you directly before their matter becomes a legal dispute.
Percentage of participants that judge the integrity of online merchants according to the following factors, Germany 2017
- Choice of payment options
- Shipping and return policies
- Online reviews from other customers
- Merchant’s reputation
- Seal of quality
- Legal disclosure
- Recommendations from friends and family
- Quality of the product presentation on the homepage
- Privacy statement
What information can I choose to include in my Impressum at my own discretion?
There are a few details that you may choose not to include in the legal disclosure of your corporation’s website. Find out whether or not publishing additional, optional information makes sense for your situation.
- Fax number
- Capitalisation: Information on your corporation’s capitalisation does not have to be included in its legal disclosure. If you decide to provide that information, however, you will then be required to publish the amount of capital that has yet to be contributed.
- Tax number/Steuernummer: You do not need to disclose your domestic tax identification number. If you have a VAT ID number, however, it must be provided. Not having a VAT tax number (Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer, or USt-IdNr) does not mean you have to provide your corporation’s tax identification number instead.
Are there any known legal grey areas when it comes to legal disclosures?
There are still many finer points that the law does not clearly define. Many national and EU-wide court decisions over the past years have aimed to minimise grey areas and clarify uncertainties.
Direct line of communication
Whether or not a telephone number should be included in a legal disclosure in addition to an email address has been discussed in court multiple times. In addition to an email address, the European Court of Justice decided that another immediate and efficient method of communication must be provided. However, this does not necessarily have to be a telephone number. According to a decision made by Germany’s Federal Supreme Court, an acceptable alternative, reliable communication method is any method that the consumer can take advantage of without any additional cost. A cell phone number, for example, is reliable. A contact form, however, cannot be used to replace an email address.
Multiple court decisions – such as one made by the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf in 2013 (website in German) – also confirm that the names of a company’s authorised representatives are not classified as ‘company information’. The decision states that the name of a GmbH’s or UG’s managing director does not have to be disclosed. This does, however, conflict with article 5 of the German Telemedia Act (§ 5 TMG Abs. 1 S. 1). We, therefore, recommend including the names of your company’s authorised representatives in its legal disclosure.
These are just some of the many nuances of creating a legally watertight disclosure. When in doubt, always consult a lawyer.
Tips for keeping your Impressum legally sound
- Don’t place too much trust in online legal disclosure generators (Impressums-Generatoren). Their input forms often only ask for standard details and don’t cover special cases. A legal disclosure generated online will not necessarily keep you from receiving an Abmahnung.
- Stay in the loop. New national and EU-wide court decisions and directives in the data and consumer protection fields are issued regularly. Subscribe to newsletters from trustworthy specialist media.
- Talk to experts and protect yourself legally. If you’re unsure if your legal disclosure meets all necessary requirements, you should consult a lawyer who specialises in internet law.
- If you do receive an Abmahnung, examine the sender and issuer carefully. Some law firms have specialised in fining companies without proper legal disclosures, terms and conditions or privacy statements on a large scale. These sweeping Abmahnungen are mostly attempts to fine their client’s competitors, and there is not always a legal basis for them. Always contact a lawyer before you act or sign!
Other important disclosures for GmbHs and UGs
It’s not just your website that needs a legal disclosure; your business pages on social media need one as well. In many cases, the way these disclosures should be written isn’t (yet) legally regulated. You also need a legal disclosure for all of your business emails (German article). If you include the information mentioned above in your legal disclosures for emails and social media, however, you’ll be on the safe side.
The information published on our site is all written and checked by experts with the greatest care. Nevertheless, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information, as laws and regulations are subject to constant change. Therefore, always consult an expert in a specific case – we would be happy to connect you with the right professional.
firma.de assumes no liability for damages caused by errors in the texts.