On the question of whether and how affiliate links on websites must be identified, there have already been several decisions in the recent past, for example by the Munich Regional Court and the Dresden Higher Regional Court. The Hamburg Regional Court made a similar ruling on the handling of commissions.
This trend has now also been confirmed by the Cologne Higher Regional Court. A website operator must make the placement of affiliate links sufficiently clear and unambiguous (OLG Köln, Beschluss v. 16.12.2020 – Az.: 6 W 102/20).
In the case at hand, the problem revolved around an editorial technology and consumer portal that also generated revenue by setting affiliate links.
One of these articles reported on the results of a mattress test by Stiftung Warentest and also linked affiliates without making this clearly visible.
The portal pointed out that a banner informing about the affiliate remuneration was placed in front of each article and that a graphic shopping cart symbol was positioned in front of each link.
However, this argumentation did not convince the OLG.
The commercial purpose is not made clear if the external appearance of the commercial act is designed in such a way that the consumer cannot clearly and unambiguously recognize its commercial purpose. The standard in this respect is the recognizability of the commercial purpose for a consumer who is reasonably well informed, reasonably observant and reasonably attentive to the situation. However, the commercial character of affiliate links in a post is not sufficiently indicated if the explanation of the links is provided in the form of shopping cart symbols above the headline of the post in a visually separate area.
Also interesting the following premise of the court.
Reading an (editorial) article and deciding to call up the online store of the (linked) respective merchant (advertiser) by clicking on an affiliate link constitutes a business act, because calling up the online store corresponds to entering a store in the area of online commerce. The non-disclosure of remuneration agreements in connection with the setting of affiliate links is likely to influence the consumer in this business decision; already the existence of such agreements is relevant information for the consumer. Only with knowledge of the commercial interest in the presentation of certain products in the relevant article can the consumer make an informed decision as to whether to trust the information in the article or to consult other or further sources of information.