The general term of competition law stands for a number of different specific fields of law the focus of which is the fight against and restraint of unfair competition practices. This includes in the first place the classical narrow field of what is referred-to as the so-called law on fair competition. Its statutory basis is constituted by the law against unfair competition (Unfair Competition Act). Apart from that another substantial field of law which governs competition practices is cartel or antitrust law and yet another pertinent part of legislation which is of competitive significance is the law which governs the granting of subsidies.
In a narrower sense competition and fair competition law is to serve for the purpose of protecting competitors, consumers and the other market participants against unfair commercial practices. In practice a frequent relevant situation arises by unfair misleading advertising and unfair comparisons of prices (Sections 4, 5, 6 of the German Unfair Competition Act). Section 4 of the Unfair Competition Act specifies unfair business actions. Apart from disparaging statements concerning companies or other competitors it is often the imitation or piracy of goods and products which result in an avoidable deception of buyers concerning the commercial origin of such goods or products (so-called intellectual property rights or the deliberate impediment of competitors.
Sanctions are also provided for infringements of legal provisions which govern market behavior in the interest of the market participants. In recent practice an increased number of warning waves was to be noted, as far as false notices in the internet were concerned (instructions on the right of revocation, etc.). Sanctions are also provided for price quotations which do not comply with the German Price Quotation Regulations.
In cases of infringements the first imminent sanction is frequently a warning which must regularly be paid for. (Section 12 sub-section 2 of the German Unfair Competition Act). A warning serves for the purpose of drawing the infringing party’s attention to the fact that there is such an infringement so that the infringer will not repeat and refrain from such infringements. This risk of repetition can then only be eliminated by the infringer submitting a cease and desist declaration with a penalty clause. If such a declaration will not be submitted the infringer risks being involved in legal proceedings. In case of an infringement is justified the Courts of Justice will regularly enter a temporary restraining order. If the infringer then intends to defend itself against such a temporary restraining order it will be necessary to file an objection against the same.
German competition law has many juridical facets. It also provides for numerous different modes of procedure which may be conducive to the outcome of the proceedings. Considering the complexity of such situations it is essential to immediately contact our office as soon as a warning is received. In many cases it is also important to obtain legal counsel already at an early stage and before planned advertising and sales promotion measures or special business operations will actually be implemented. We are all ready to counsel and assist you with respect to all legal aspects and questions which may be significant for you from the fair competition point of view.