Hamm Higher Regional Court (November 16, 2016 – 12 U 52/16, final) described requirements for a website only intended for B2B business, which does not have to meet obligations for consumer transactions.
While it is possible to restrict a web offering to businesses, there are high requirements to do so: In addition to clear information at a suitable location on the website, it must be ensured that no significant number of contracts with consumers are concluded. Where users are to confirm their commercial use, this has to be pointed out clearly and must be highlighted. The reference to general terms and conditions is generally not sufficient. Since the website at issue failed to meet these requirements in full, a consumer association had successful filed legal action for an injunction.
Services offered on the website could be used both privately and commercially. Indications to an offering only to businesses could be overlooked too easily. Furthermore, the user registration failed to clearly point out the offering only to businesses. Although users had to confirm their commercial use status together with the general terms and conditions, the appellate court considered this not to be sufficient, since consumers only expect to accept general terms and conditions there.
Because the website did not meet the requirements for consumer transactions, the court prohibited its further operation. The legal action had been filed by one of about 80 consumer protection associations, which, in addition to market competitors, can pursue such injunctions.
According to the high requirements placed by jurisdiction, the orientation of a website to B2B customers only must be so clear and obvious that this limitation cannot be overlooked. A critical element is also appropriate controls ensuring that purchasers are actually businesses, not consumers. Otherwise, the website must meet all requirements for consumer transactions (information and presentation duties, right of revocation, etc.).