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Bundestag deals with abuse of warnings

The Federal Government’s draft law on the strengthening of fair competition(see my article here) concerns the Committee on Legal Affairs and Consumer Protection in a public hearing on Wednesday, 23 October 2019.

The invited experts are also to agree on a draft law of the AfD Group on “Combating the Abuse of Warnings”, a motion of the FDP entitled “Measures for more fairness in warnings” and the motion “Warnings – Transparency and Legal certainty” to express. The meeting, chaired by Stephan Brandner (AfD), will begin at 2 p.m. in the 2,600-member meeting room of the Paul-Löbe-Haus in Berlin.

According to the Federal Government, its draft law combines several legislative measures: in order to curb abusive warnings, it sees higher requirements for the power to assert entitlements, the reduction of financial incentives for warnings, more transparency and simplified ways of asserting counterclaims. In order to strengthen competition in the case of form-based spare parts for complex products such as automobiles, a repair clause is to be introduced which restricts the design right for visible spare parts for repair purposes and thus opens up the market.

The background to the bill has recently increased the indications that, despite the legal provisions, abusive warnings are still being issued. There is an unacceptable maladministration when warnings are issued primarily to achieve fees and contractual penalties, the draft states.

AfD bill
The AfD criticises the Federal Government’s proposal, which, among other things, provides for the far-reaching abolition of the “flying jurisdiction” and the aggravation of the abuse by inserting indeterminate legal terms, but is not suitable to address the problem. to solve. In part, the AfD considers the proposed measures to be harmful because they would jeopardize the undisputed benefits of the system of private law enforcement in fairness law and consumer protection.

The aim of the AfD’s amendment to the law is therefore to effectively prevent abusive warnings without jeopardising the advantages of the system of private enforcement of consumer protection and fair competition in Germany. The far-reaching abolition of the “flying jurisdiction”, as provided for in the draft law of the Federal Government, is therefore prohibited, since there is no benefit for this in terms of avoiding abusive warnings. An effective fight against the abuse of warnings presupposes the safe distinction between a legitimate warning and a dubious (‘abusive’) warning. No distinguishing criterion is the justification (reason) of a warning.

Unserious (“abusive”) warnings are regularly justified, since the warnings would shy away from the risk of being subject to the law.

Fdp motion
The FDP Group wants to achieve greater fairness in warnings in connection with competition law. The Bundestag should ask the Federal Government to submit a corresponding draft law, its motion states. The law should provide, inter alia, that for the first warning, except in the case of serious, complex or time-critical infringements – neither a competitor nor a warning association can claim warning costs, provided that the warned person was not aware of the infringement and immediately put an end to it.

The statement of reasons states that the warning has proved to be a valid instrument for the out-of-court enforcement of infringements of competition law. In practice, however, there would be significant problems, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises such as start-ups, craft enterprises, small online shops or small businesses, which are only slightly commercially active. The reason for this was the disproportionately high warning costs, which already threatened in the event of minor infringements. They are often the real motivation of the warning. The Federal Council’s draft law to strengthen fair competition does not yet go far enough for MEPs.

Greens motion
Abusive warnings are also the subject of the motion by the Alliance 90/Greens Group. After that, the Bundestag is to ask the Federal Government to submit a draft law that ensures transparency and legal certainty. The abusive assertion of claims should be defined more precisely and
Admonished should be empowered to make informed decisions, MPs say. At the same time, the draft should provide the possibility of having a declaration of injunction subject to criminal penalties reviewed in court and of being able to recover excessive warning costs retrospectively.

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Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.

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