WooCommerce: The Most Common Reasons for Penalties

Sandra May Last updated 20.10.2020
6 Min.
legal warnings
Last updated 20.10.2020

You run an online shop with WooCommerce? And want to avoid warnings? In 2018, more than 20 percent of shops have received one - according to a survey by the Händlerbund. We name the most common reasons for a WooCommerce warning or for your online shop. So you can react in time.

The cost of a warning is usually in the four-digit range; warnings by associations, such as the IDO Association, or the Association of Social Competition, are "cheaper" at under 500 euros. It is therefore all the more important for traders to know what warning letters are all about and what the most important reasons for warning letters are.

The experience of the Händlerbund shows: Most warnings are justified and can therefore be avoided. As a customer of RAIDBOXES you receive an exclusive discount on packages of the service provider for legal certainty.

Tip

WooCommerce is geared towards the US market. So you can't run it in standard if you want to avoid a WooCommerce warning. Read our article WooCommerce to make it legally secure. It gives recommendations as well as WordPress Plugins for legal security in Germany and Europe.

Warning letters in Germany

In legal terms, a warning is a request to refrain from doing something that adversely affects the other person. This can be the branches of the neighbour's apple tree that protrude over the property line, but also a false report in the press about a person.

In eCommerce it mainly concerns warnings under competition law. It is therefore a matter of one dealer warning another because the latter is in breach of competition law. This infringement gives the trader a competitive advantage over those who behave in a law-abiding manner. It therefore affects competition.

An example: A retailer refrains from licensing his packaging with one of the dual systems. This saves him costs that he would actually include in the product prices. As a result, he can offer his products at a lower average price than his competitors.

Put simply, the basic requirements for issuing a warning notice are that one suffers a disadvantage due to the competitive infringement of another. This in turn means that the person committing the infringement must be in a direct competitive relationship with the trader issuing the warning.

Warning by competitors

A competitive relationship exists, for example, if the range of goods is similar. In most cases, the trader does not issue the warning himself, but commissions a lawyer to represent his interests. The costs can then be recovered from the person who has been warned.

A warning also usually includes a pre-formulated cease-and-desist declaration. This is basically nothing more than a contract with which the competitor promises not to repeat the mistake. In the event of a breach of contract, a contractual penalty becomes due. To avoid this costly consequence in the first place, we list them for you: The five most common reasons for a warning letter under competition law.

Reason 1: The outdated cancellation policy

The right of withdrawal has existed in its current form since 2014. Nevertheless, outdated instructions on how to withdraw from a contract still haunt online shops. They can be recognized by the fact that the shop operator instructs his customer that he can also declare the revocation in the form of a return without comment. But this is wrong! Since 2014, the revocation must be made by declaration to the company.

WooCommerce Cancellation policy
Pluginslike German Market, the revocation policy can be controlled

This means that the customer must formulate his will to revoke. Anyone who still has this wording in their legal texts should therefore act quickly. By the way: Despite legally correct cancellation instructions, it can happen that a customer returns the goods without comment. This can lead to uncertainty for the trader.

Reason 2: Advertising with insured shipping

Just as often, the advertising with insured shipping is warned off. This phrase falls under "advertising as a matter of course". At least if the trader directs his business to consumers. Because: According to § 475 paragraph 2 of the German Civil Code (BGB), the trader bears the transport risk in the case of a shipment sale. This means that the trader is liable if the goods are lost or damaged on the way to the customer.

Whether the shipment is insured or not is irrelevant for the customer. However, by stating "insured shipping", the merchant suggests the opposite. Namely, that the customer is particularly protected with him compared to other dealers who do not make this statement.

Note

There are numerous guidelines on what you can and cannot write in your shop and on your product pages. Read our guide for WooCommerce or our e-book WooCommerce for professionals.

By the way: This does not apply in B2B or C2C business. Here, the transport risk is transferred to the buyer as soon as the goods are handed over to the service provider. For the buyer, it therefore does matter how the goods are shipped.

Reason 3: Blanket advertising with guarantee

"2-year warranty!" - Such statements attract customers, but: What does the warranty actually cover? On a specific part of the product? On the colour? And where do I as a customer turn to if a warranty case arises? If the advertising of a guarantee conceals these circumstances, it is an illegal blanket advertising with a guarantee.

A correct statement of such a guarantee must, for example, include the name and address of the guarantor and explain what to do in the event of a guarantee claim. With the blanket statement, on the other hand, the customer does not know what actually has to be done if something goes wrong. Maybe the warranty actually only covers a small portion of damage? If the customer had known this before the purchase, the "2-year warranty" statement would certainly not have been so tempting.

Reason 4: The lack of basic price information

The Price Indication Regulation (PDF) obliges the indication of a basic price. This is to ensure that consumers can still compare the prices of goods that are sold in different quantities. The basic price must always be indicated if a product is offered by length, weight, volume or area. However, the law does not provide for a basic price per unit.

If a product is offered by length, weight, volume or area, the basic price indication must be given accordingly per kilogram, litre, metre and so on. For goods whose nominal weight or volume is usually less than 250 grams or millilitres, the basic price may also be indicated per hundred grams or millilitres respectively.

Note

Legal requirements for online shops are constantly changing. This article does not replace legal advice. Please contact a suitable law firm to check your shop with WooCommerce or contact the Händlerbundif you have any questions.

The basic price must always be stated when the total price is advertised. It is therefore not sufficient to mention it in the product description.

For the Ebay marketplace, it is therefore advisable to include the basic price information in the title of the article. Because: Ebay allows sellers to enter a basic price in principle. This is usually displayed directly below the total price. However, Ebay also creates catalog views, such as "Customers also bought". Here it can happen in individual cases that the total price is listed without the base price.

Reason 5: Lack of registration with LUCID

The new Packaging Act has been in force since 01.01.2019. This has seamlessly replaced the old packaging regulations and provides for new obligations for traders. The basic idea of the law is that the person who sends the subsequent packaging waste to the consumer should also be responsible for its disposal. Therefore, packaging must be licensed with one of the dual systems.

This process is not new: the obligation to license has already existed since the mid-1990s. It was regulated by the Packaging Ordinance until the end of 2018. The problem with this: whether someone complies with this obligation or not was, in fact, hardly verifiable. Therefore, there were possibly many entrepreneurs who did not comply with this obligation.

Central office for the packaging register
Central Agency Packaging Register in Germany (LUCID)

This has changed fundamentally since 01.01.2019: With the new Packaging Act, the database of the so-called "Central Office" was also established. On this database, all those who put packaging into circulation that is subject to system participation must register with the dual system in addition to licensing. The database is called LUCID and is publicly accessible. This means that it is now not only easier for authorities to identify violations. Your competitors can also see whether they are complying with the law.

Help with warnings

For some European countries and languages there are services like the Händlerbund. This service provides continuously updated legal texts, which make your online shop even more secure against warnings. The interface to WooCommerce is particularly practical. This minimizes your administrative effort considerably.

The Händlerbund is also available for legal questions and warnings to site . You are a customer of RAIDBOXES? Then you get in the first year exclusively a discount of 3 months on the packages of the Händlerbund. Use the following link: https://www.haendlerbund.de/de/raidboxes.

What questions do you have about warnings and WooCommerce ? Feel free to use the comment function. You want to get more tips on WordPress and WooCommerce ? Then follow us on Twitter, Facebook or via our newsletter.

Sandra May has been a legal expert for the publication Online HändlerNews since September 2018. During her studies she specialized in the field of competition and copyright law. After completing her legal clerkship, she took the rather unusual step into journalism. Sandra is passionate about explaining complex legal topics in a clear way for everyone to understand.

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