Especially traders who purchase products from the Asian region should note that the absence of a German-language instruction manual in a product is likely to be regularly subject to a warning.

From the UWG there are in particular to § 5 para. 1 No. 1 UWG or § 5a para. 2 UWG to think about. According to this, consumers must be provided with all relevant information concerning the essential characteristics of the goods, such as design, benefits, risks, accessories, fitness for purpose, possible use, etc. Although the Potsdam Regional Court ruled a few years ago that the provision of an operating manual exclusively on CD-ROM was sufficient and that no warning could be issued under competition law, it remains to be seen whether such a decision might soon be different in times when CD-ROM/DVD drives are regularly missing in laptops and the like.

In any case, enclosing instructions in English only is not sufficient, as already decided in 2010 by the Regional Court of Bochum and just recently by the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt. Difficulties of delimitation are caused by manuals that are translated so badly that they are in fact not a German manual. Currently, it will always be important to pay attention to the target group. A senior citizen’s telephone is sometimes subject to different requirements for the accessibility of a user manual than a graphics card for a PC.

However, it is important that online retailers and importers ensure that proper, complete and all aspects comprehensive instructions are available in German. In addition to the competition law aspects, defective operating instructions can also give rise to very unpleasant risks under product liability law and, of course, under the law on warranty for defects, some of which may not even be covered by business liability insurance if customers, for example, suffer permanent damage as a result of improper use.

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