Infringements of competition law can prove to be costly. Following a ruling of the OLG Celle of July 7, 2015, this is also true for impermissible advertising of the location of a company (Az. 13 W 35/15).
GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London - www.grprainer.com/en conclude: Companies are only allowed to advertise a location if it is in fact accessible to customers. This emerged from a decision of the Oberlandesgericht Celle (Higher Regional Court of Celle). According to this, it is not permissible to advertise a company site if in fact no office or premises are maintained there from which employees can be personally contacted during regular office hours or at times made known in the conventional manner. This was deemed to represent misleading advertising.
In the case in question, the defendant had rented premises at a location and advertised the site as a branch office. However, the premises served only as a warehouse for work materials that was used a few months a year by four employees of the firm, with mail and phone calls being forwarded to the company’s headquarters. The employee who raised the legal action considered the advertising of the company’s location to be misleading, claiming that there was no place of business at that site.
The OLG Celle found in favour of the plaintiff. It held that the advertising of the company’s location was misleading and thus also anti-competitive if in fact no operations were being conducted there. It went on to say that this information concerning the company was liable to mislead people. The Court stated that it could only be referred to as company premises if a place of business with an office, staff and contact persons were available to customers during normal business hours or at least at times that had been announced. The OLG ordered the defendant company by way of an interim injunction to refrain from this kind of advertising. It said that high fines could be imposed if this were to be violated.
Advertising is indispensable to a lot of businesses as a way of familiarising customers with their products or services. At the same time, the legislature has also set boundaries here. Thus, infringements of the Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb (German Act Against Unfair Competition) are dealt with severely. Written warnings, damages claims and actions for injunctions are all possible consequences of competition law infringements.
Companies can turn to lawyers who are competent in the field of competition law to enforce or fend off these kinds of claims.