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Warning letter from the Wettbewerbszentrale - How to react correctly!

If you receive a warning letter from the Wettbewerbszentrale in your letterbox, you should not take it too lightly. In the enclosures, you will find an invoice for reimbursement of expenses, usually in the amount of 200 to 300 euros, and a cease-and-desist declaration with an announced contractual penalty of up to 4,000 euros for future infringements.

warning letter from the Wettbewerbszentrale
Have you received a warning letter from the Wettbewerbszentrale? Call us at (040) 3501 6360 or write an e-mail to info@kanzlei-bennek.de.

From my many years of experience as a specialist lawyer for industrial property protection, I advise you not to sign and / or arrange for both without checking.

Who is the Wettbewerbszentrale?

The Wettbewerbszentrale (WBZ) is correctly called "Zentrale zur Bekämpfung unlauteren Wettbewerbs Frankfurt am Main e.V." and is based in Bad Homburg - with its own offices in Berlin and Hamburg, Stuttgart, Munich and Dortmund.

About 1,200 companies as well as 800 chambers and trade associations are organised in it. According to its statutes, it is to monitor competition and consumer protection regulations. It pursues competition violations and anti-competitive infringements in the commercial sector with warnings and also in court.

What infringements can the Wettbewerbszentrale issue a warning about?

In principle, the Wettbewerbszentrale is authorised to issue warnings for all breaches of competition law. The "classics" include:

  • incomplete and/or incorrect information in the imprint of websites
  • incorrect/incorrect instructions on revocation
  • non-legally valid clauses in general terms and conditions (GTC)
  • violations of the regulations of the Price Indication Ordinance (Preisangabenverordnung)
  • incomplete/incorrect information in textile labelling

Recently, letters with the letterhead "warning notice of the Wettbewerbszentrale" have been accumulating, with which the following offences are punished:

  • Warning letter due to purchased/paid valuations
  • Warning letter due to charges levied for instant bank transfer or Paypal
  • Indication of a telephone number for which a charge is made in the cancellation policy
  • Violations of data protection regulations
  • Warning notice due to infringement of trademark rights or copyrights.

What does the Wettbewerbszentrale demand?

WBZ requests the warned party to refrain from the aforementioned competition violations in the future. The legal basis for this is § 8 para. 1, para. 3 no. 2 UWG (Unfair Competition Act).

To this end, he is to sign the attached cease-and-desist declaration with a penalty clause, by which he undertakes to pay a fixed contractual penalty of 2,000 to 4,000 euros in any case of future infringement.

In addition, the Wettbewerbszentrale claims reimbursement of the warning costs - this is usually between 200 and 300 euros.

I have received a warning letter from the Wettbewerbszentrale. What can I do?

Despite the generally very short deadline, you should first take a deep breath. Do not try to call the Wettbewerbszentrale to "discuss" the matter. In the worst case, all your statements can be used against you later.

Conversely, however, ignoring the warning does not lead to a solution either: you will receive further written requests and, if necessary, you will be threatened with legal action.

In the same way, I strongly advise you not to sign the prefabricated cease-and-desist declaration without further examination and to simply settle the payment claims. Even if you think that by transferring a comparatively "bearable" 200 euros, the whole story is out of the question.

From my many years of experience, I know that even the smallest mistakes or inaccuracies in the wording of article details, instructions or information obligations can later violate this cease-and-desist declaration and result in high contractual penalties. It is not uncommon for these penalties to threaten the very existence of a company.

How can a specialist lawyer help with a warning letter from the Wettbewerbszentrale?

A competent lawyer will first check the warning for its correctness, i.e. confirm or reject the actual existence of an infringement of competition law.

If the allegations made have to be recognised as justified, I will draft a modified cease-and-desist declaration for you that is only as broad as necessary in the specific case, but at the same time as narrow as possible. In this way, you avoid later, unmanageable negative consequences for yourself and your company.

If, on the other hand, a cease-and-desist letter proves to be wholly or partially unjustified, I will defend WBZ's claims on your behalf and discuss with you a possibly necessary defence strategy.

Conclusion: A warning from the Wettbewerbszentrale should always be legally examined.

In your own interest, always seek legal assistance when you receive a warning letter from the Wettbewerbszentrale.

The consequences of a carelessly signed cease-and-desist declaration can catch up with you for years in the form of high contractual penalties. This often requires only a minor inattention or the proverbial slip of the pen, for example in the case of new product descriptions in e-commerce.

Avert long-term damage to your company in time. You can call us or contact us by e-mail at any time.

Do you have questions about the Wettbewerbszentrale, a warning letter or would you like to make an appointment?

Make an appointment now!

Picture credits: © Antonio Guillen Fernández / 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
c/o Elbkanzlei
Bleichenbrücke 11
20354 Hamburg
040 3501 6360
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