Two regulations insist that retailers can virtually identify themselves on the Internet with an imprint and their company data: the Introductory Act to the Civil Code and the Telemedia Act. This imprint obligation stipulates that website operators must identify themselves precisely in an imprint. Depending on the legal form and branch of the provider, the following information is mandatory in the imprint: Name, company and, if applicable, additional legal form as well as the address of the provider.
Owner, CEO or CEO: What’s the difference?
In the case of legal entities and partnerships (e.g. GmbH, KG), the indication of the person authorized to represent is also mandatory. This can either be the managing director (in the case of a GmbH) or the supervisory board and the board of directors (in the case of a stock corporation). There is also the owner (at a registered merchant).
When it comes to the term managing director, the case is clear: it is regulated by law which types of company have a managing director. The company must be a GmbH, OHG or KG. However, German commercial and corporate law does not have a CEO (according to abbreviationfinder, Chief Executive Officer).
The Germans are familiar with the term CEO
Before the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main, there was a debate as to whether the average customer, to whom the imprint obligation is ultimately aimed, can relate to the term CEO. The imprint of a US LLC (Limited Liability Company) was attacked, which just doesn’t have a managing director, but a CEO. Ultimately, the court saw no problem in the statement, because the Germans are now familiar with the function of a CEO in connection with the person authorized to represent a company (OLG Frankfurt, judgment of February 18, 2021, Az. 6 U 150/19).
However, anyone who operates an AG or GmbH in this country should at least continue to use the respective German terms for clarification in order not to offer a target for a warning.
Mailbox address is sufficient for US companies
The additional information in an imprint also includes the address at which the customer can reach the entrepreneur. However, a US company does not necessarily have its own branch here in Germany. The court finds that it should not be inferred from the law. The fact that it has to be a physical branch, i.e. a “branch office designed for a certain period of time, which is provided with sufficient premises and such personal and material equipment”, is not absolutely necessary. The address in the imprint should only enable contact with the operator of the website. A mailbox address should therefore suffice for the US company.