Contact Form instead of Imprint?

Formalities and even more legalities... In the mean time we have learned that a website must have an imprint with all the company's details. Among these details is the eMail address. One clever businessman came with the idea of replacing the eMail address on the website with a contact form. What do believe are the odds on what the LG Essen decided with its judgment of September 19, 2007 (re 44 O 79/07).


LG Essen held it does not satisfy the legal requirements if the website owner provides a contact form which establishes a contact to the company via the "Send" command. Rather, §5 I, II TMG requires the information to be directly displayed. Period. The idea behind this is not only transparency but also to quickly establish a contact. An eMail address is sufficient for this purpose, however, as opposed to the offer to contact the company by means of a contact form.

According to a ruling of the OLG Frankfurt, a commercial Internet service provider does not comply with the legal obligation for adequate provider identification if the link designated with the term "Legal Notice," via which the website owner information can be accessed, is positioned only in very small lettering and not highlighted typographically at the right lower end of the website owner's site.


The imprint of a website can rapidly prove to be a stumbling block unless it satisfies the requirements of the legal duty to provide the essential information on the company. This applies, in particular, to foreign companies which frequently are not subjected to any comparable duties in their home country, such as in the U.S.A. In the case of imprint violations, companies are threatened with administrative fines of up to € 50,000 and admonishments from competitors which can also generate substantial costs.

Providers addressing European and particularly German customers should therefore carefully design the imprint and see to it that the user also finds it without any difficulties. Usually, a link to the legal notice is placed in a kind of "information block" together with additional orientation to the officialities of the website - along with the disclaimer, data protection note, etc. The format of these words / links may even be in smaller lettering, at the lower, upper and/or navigational of the page. The Internet user is familiar with this kind of design. However, a hidden link attached in lettering which is tiny and/or pale is not adequate.

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