WooCommerce: The Most Common Reasons for Penalties

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

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

The cost of a warning notice is usually in the four-figure range; warnings issued by associations such as the IDO Association or the Association of Social Competition are "cheaper" at under 500 euros. This makes it all the more important for dealers to know what is involved in warning notices and what the most important reasons for warning notices are.

The experience of the dealer association shows: Most warnings are justified and can be avoided accordingly. As a customer of RAIDBOXES you will receive a exclusive discount on packages from the service provider for legal certainty.

Tip

WooCommerce is geared towards the US market. So you can't run it as standard if you want to avoid a WooCommercewarning. Read our article Make WooCommerce Legally Compliant. It gives recommendations as well WordPress plugins as for legal certainty in Europe.

Warnings in Germany

From a legal point of view, a warning notice is a request to refrain from doing something that affects the other party. This can be the branches of the neighbour's apple tree that protrude over the property line, but also false press coverage of 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 fails to license his packaging with one of the dual systems. In this way, he saves costs which he would actually include in the product prices. On average, he can thus offer his products more cheaply than his competitors.

In simple terms, the basic prerequisite for issuing a warning notice is therefore that one suffers a disadvantage as a result of someone else's infringement of competition law. This in turn means that the party committing the infringement must be in direct competition with the warning dealer.

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 engages a lawyer to represent his interests. He can then recover the costs from the person who has been warned.

In addition, a warning notice usually includes a pre-formulated cease-and-desist declaration. This is basically no different from a contract in which the competitor promises not to repeat the mistake. In the event of a breach of contract, a contractual penalty is due. To prevent this costly consequence from happening in the first place, we will name it for you: The five most common reasons for a competition law warning.

Reason 1: The outdated cancellation policy

The right of withdrawal has been in place in its current form since 2014, but outdated Cancellation policy through the online shops. They can be recognised by the fact that the shop operator informs his customer that he can also declare the revocation in the form of a return without comment. But this is wrong! Since 2014, 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 withdraw. Anyone who still has this wording in their legal texts should therefore act quickly. By the way: Despite legally correct revocation instruction it can happen that a customer sent back without comment. This can lead to uncertainty for the dealer.

Reason 2: Advertising with insured shipping

Just as often, advertising with the insured shipping dunned. This phrase falls under the heading of "advertising as a matter of course". At least if the trader gears his business to consumers. Because: According to § 475 paragraph 2 BGB, the entrepreneur bears the transport risk in the case of a dispatch sale. This means that the dealer 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. By saying "insured shipping", however, the dealer is suggesting the opposite. Namely, that the customer is particularly protected in his dealings with other dealers who do not make this statement.

Note

There are numerous guidelines as to what you may and may not write in your shop and on your product pages. Please also read our Guide for WooCommerce or our e-book WooCommerce for professionals .

By the way: This does not apply to 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 is therefore very much a matter of how the goods are shipped.

Reason 3: Flat-rate advertising with guarantee

"Two-year guarantee!" - Such statements attract customers, but: What is the guarantee for? On a specific part of the product? On the paint? And where do I turn as a customer when it comes to a warranty case? If the advertisement of a guarantee conceals these circumstances, it is an illegal flat-rate advertising with a guarantee.

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

Reason 4: The missing basic price

The Price Indication Regulation (PDF) requires the indication of a basic price. This is to ensure that consumers can still compare the prices of products sold in different quantities. The basic price must always be quoted when 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 must be indicated accordingly per kilogram, litre, metre and so on. For goods whose nominal weight or volume is usually less than 250 grams or milliliters, the basic price may also be quoted per hundred grams or milliliters.

Note

Legal requirements for online shops change constantly. This article does not replace legal advice. To check your shop, please WooCommerce contact a suitable law firm or contact the Händlerbundif you have any questions.

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

For the marketplace Ebay, it is therefore recommended to include the basic price information in the title of the article. Because: Ebay enables the 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". In individual cases it may happen that the total price is listed without the basic price.

Reason 5: Lack of registration with LUCID

Since 01.01.2019 the new packaging law is valid. This has seamlessly replaced the old packaging regulations and provides for new obligations for retailers. 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. Packaging must therefore be licensed with one of the dual systems.

This process is not new: the obligation to license has existed since the mid-1990s. It was regulated by the Packaging Ordinance until the end of 2018. The problem with this: whether or not someone fulfils this duty was in fact difficult to check. Therefore there may have been many entrepreneurs who did not comply with this obligation.

Central office Packaging register
The Central Unit Packaging Register 'LUCID

This has changed fundamentally since 01.01.2019: With the new packaging law, the database of the so-called "central office" was also established. All those who put packaging that is subject to system participation into circulation must register with this database in addition to their licensing with the dual system. The database is called LUCID and is publicly available. This means that not only authorities now have an easier time investigating infringements. Even your competitors can see if the competition is abiding by the law.

Help with warnings

For some European countries and languages there are services like the Händlerbund. This provides continuously updated legal texts, which make your online shop even more dunning-proof. Especially practical is the interface to WooCommerce. This minimizes your administrative effort considerably.

He Händlerbundis also at your disposal for legal questions and warningssite . You are a customer of RAIDBOXES? Then you will receive an exclusive discount of 3 months on the packages of the Händlerbund in the first year. Use the following link: https://www.haendlerbund.de/de/RAIDBOXES.

What questions about warnings and WooCommerce do you have? Please use the comment function. Would you like to receive further tips on WordPress and WooCommerce? Then follow us on Twitteror Facebook , or subscribe to our newsletter.

Sandra May has been writing as a legal expert for Online MerchantNews since September 2018. Already during her studies she specialized in the field of competition and copyright law. After completing her legal clerkship, she ventured the rather unclassical leap into journalism. Explaining legal facts in a clear and understandable way for laypersons is exactly what they do.

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