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Advertising law: what is the difference between permitted advertising and unfair competition?

advertising law
Do you have questions about advertising law? Call us at (040) 3501 6360 or write an e-mail to info@kanzlei-bennek.de.

Advertising reaches potential clients and is therefore essential. The more positive things the advertising promises, the more people feel addressed.

The advertiser is able to sell more and increase his sales. But in their efforts to reach as many customers as possible, some overshoot the mark. The result is often costly warnings that can ruin the company in the worst case.

Therefore, it is advisable to deal with advertising law before publishing the advertising measure.


  1. Fundamentals of advertising law
  2. What are the legal limits of advertising?
  3. Sales message or unfair competition?
  4. The lawyer in advertising and competition law

1. Fundamentals of advertising law

The central law for all forms of impairment of competition through advertising is the "Law against Unfair Competition", or UWG for short.

This piece of legislation, which is actually German, has had an international character since 2008. This means that misleading or manipulative advertising is prohibited not only in Germany, but in the entire EU area.

The law includes a so-called "black list", which lists examples of prohibited conduct and prohibited business practices under advertising law. According to the UWG, advertising must not contain untrue claims and must not deceive the consumer.

For particularly serious cases, the law provides for severe fines or imprisonment.

2. What are the legal limits of advertising?

Since advertising law focuses on consumer protection, there are numerous regulations and EU directives that must be observed.

Classic examples of problematic advertising strategies are unlawful e-mail advertising, unsolicited letterbox advertising and harassing telephone advertising, whereby the boundaries between permitted and prohibited customer advertising are often fluid.

The UWG then speaks, among other things, of "unreasonable harassment" or "misleading advertising". Even with classic advertising letters and simple direct mailings, it can be difficult to comply with the requirements of advertising law.

In addition, there are individual laws and ordinances dedicated to specific advertising law topics. These include, for example, the Foodstuffs Act, the Therapeutic Products Advertising Act, the Teleservices Act and the Cosmetics Ordinance.

3. Sales message or unfair competition?

"We are the best beauty clinic, perform true miracles within the shortest time and at absolutely the lowest prices!" Anyone advertising with such a slogan is on legally thin ice.

Competition law sets legal limits for companies and institutions with regard to influencing the purchase decision of their customers, which every advertiser should deal with conscientiously.

Non-compliance in the context of an advertising campaign usually leads to considerable costs as a result of prohibitions and penalties.

4. The lawyer in advertising and competition law

Exceeding advertising law limits and making inadmissible claims, in other words unfair competition, will in most cases result in warnings from competitors or consumer protection agencies.

In addition to the costs for legal disputes, there are also high costs for changing or even destroying the advertising campaign. Therefore, anyone who starts an advertising campaign should seek professional advice beforehand.

A specialist lawyer for industrial property protection offers the following services

  • Legal advice and support for individuals, companies, law firms and public institutions in all advertising matters.
  • Examination and assessment of the legal suitability of advertising measures.
  • Warning letters against competitors in the case of misleading and prohibited advertising.
  • Advice on advertising on the internet and social media advertising law.
  • Differentiation between product placement and surreptitious advertising.
  • Legal guidance on how to deal with test results in advertising.
  • Enforcement of extrajudicial and judicial claims for damages and injunctive relief.

By having your advertising concept checked by a lawyer in advance, you can avoid problems that usually lead to unnecessary, expensive warnings. In addition, in the event of an infringement of advertising law by third parties, you are always on the safe side with qualified legal representation.

Convince yourself of the advantages of specialist legal representation! Arrange a personal appointment now and receive comprehensive advice.

Do you have questions about advertising law or would you like to make an appointment?

Make an appointment now!

Bildquellennachweis: © maxkabakov / panthermedia.net

Marco Bennek
I started working as a lawyer in 2006 and have been advising clients in competition and trademark law for more than 10 years. Since June 2015 I have been a specialist attorney for industrial property rights and since May 2013 a partner in the firm of HELMKE Attorneys at Law and Tax Advisors and Patent Attorneys. I studied law in Hamburg, Madrid, and Wellington (New Zealand) and hold a Master of Laws (LL.M.).
Rechtsanwalt Marco Bennek
Lawyer Marco Bennek – trademark law, copyright, competition law and IT law in Hamburg
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