German online buyers don’t stop at the border: 67% already buy their favourite brand at European online shops or are at least interested in it (1). 56 percent also do this outside of Europe and order products from overseas or are open-minded enough to do so in the future.
According to an E-Commerce Europe Report, the greatest motivations for these German e-shoppers to buy cross-border are better availability, appealing offers and better conditions. 22% of German e-shoppers have bought books, CDs, DVDs or videogames in a foreign online shop at least once. ¼ have bought clothing and footwear abroad. Those who are familiar with the target group can also exploit this potential.
Who are you? Show your virtual business card!
As soon as an entrepreneur presents his goods on the Internet, he is obliged to make his/her identity known. This means he has to provide a complete imprint on his website. The imprint, which is easily recognizable, directly accessible and constantly available to the visitors of the site, therefore fulfills legal requirements as well as creating trust with the customer.
No reason to worry about German IT law: Companies who have their headquarters exclusively abroad need the imprint according to their own national law. The standard data, which is required in Germany and other countries, such as address and electronic contact data, should nevertheless be provided.
What are your conditions? Point out your terms!
The phrase “I have read and accepted the terms and conditions.” is the most common lie on the Internet. This was proven by a British WLAN provider, which in its terms and conditions hid a basic obligation to toilet cleaning. Only one of 20,000 recognized the trap. In contrast, customers need to be informed about a business’ conditions transparently, because 26% of all online shoppers in Germany are still skeptical toward foreign online-shops.
An online dealer has additional information requirements anyway. The trader must point out the following aspects of online contracts:
the characteristics of the goods,
the total price including all taxes,
all freight or shipping costs, where applicable,
the payment arrangements,
the duration of the contract or the terms of the termination,
the information on the Right of Withdrawal.
Are you trustworthy? Tell how you deal with personal data!
Even if the fear of data protection violations are no reasons for Germans not to buy cross-border, a website operator that collects personal data from his users (for example, through the maintenance of a customer file, the use of analytics tools), should and must inform his visitors and customers of the data he collects and what it is stored or used for. Therefore, websites must be equipped with a data protection regulation. This applies to all German entrepreneurs, as well as to all foreign traders who turn to German consumers and work with their data. As of late, with the new General Data protection Regulation (GDPR), the legal framework has been harmonized within all European countries.
What are you selling? Tell more about your products!
Not only to achieve a conversion, but also to satisfy the law, the essential characteristics of the goods have to be provided before an online purchase, such as material, colour or manufacturer. Attention should be paid as well to:
– Labeling of products (e.g. the information about the energy efficiency class of an electrical product) and
– Advertising messages. Misleading advertising is forbidden. Therefore, slogans shall be true and provable.
Do you comply with the target country’s regulations? Conduct your business legally!
Online merchants who send shipping boxes and other packaging to German consumers from abroad are subject to the provisions of the German Packaging Regulation and must obtain licensing. Violations can be fined. Companies that offer electrical and electronic products on the German market must ensure a registration of those products, too. Anyone sending electrical and electronic products from abroad to Germany is considered a manufacturer in Germany and has to register in Germany with the so-called “Stiftung EAR”, engl. EAR Foundation.
Who is watching you? Disappoint market monitors!
A special characteristic of shipping to Germany is the monitoring of compliance with legal obligations. Unlike other countries, in Germany there is no state monitoring of competition violations. The right to penalize an “unacceptable business action” is open to all competitors, legal associations and qualified institutions instead. Compliance with law and order is therefore particularly important in Germany.
About the Händlerbund
Seeking for more detailed information on German e-commerce? At the Händlerbund website you can find more information: https://www.haendlerbund.de/en/services/fact-sheets
As Europe’s largest online retailer association, Händlerbund is the voice and partner of the e-commerce sector. The association encourages the exchange between retailers and service providers, to support the digital and stationery trade and aim for sustainability. Through the Europe-wide representation of interests and bundling a variety of services, the Händlerbund and its members shape the sector actively.
As a customer of Meet Magento Association you receive a 2-month discount on a membership package for legally secure texts at Händlerbund in the first year of contract by using the following discount code: P1034#2017.
About the author:
Since 2013, Yvonne Bachmann has been working as an attorney for the Händlerbund, Europe’s largest e-commerce association. She advises online retailers on legal issues and regularly reports on legislative changes and legal issues affecting the e-commerce industry. She has extensive experience in the online trading and advertising industry and its appropriate fields of law, coupled with an understanding of the needs of legal laymen. In addition, she is a speaker, interview partner and guest author.
Händlerbund is official strategic partner of Meet Magento Association.
(1) Fittkau & Maaß Consulting surveyed more than 5,000 Internet users in an Internet-based online survey in 2015 with regard to their purchasing behavior at European and global online shops.