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By Olga Stepanova, Esq.
WINHELLER Attorneys at Law and Tax Advisors
Frankfurt, Germany

The General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union, entering into force EU-wide on 25 May 2018, is currently causing much excitement. Many companies did not yet notice that next to sanctions from the data protection authorities also competitors could threaten them with costly warnings.

Website Operators Have To Inform About Data Usage

During the last years, more and more German courts substantiated their legal rating. The Higher Regional Courts of Hamburg and Cologne take the view that every website operator has to inform website visitors about the nature, extent and purpose of the collection and use of personal data and the processing of their data in countries outside the European Union.

Competitors Can Choose Any Court Desired

If website operators do not provide this information correctly, competitors could issue a costly warning. A special danger arises from the fact that the company who issues the warning may choose the court in which it wants to sue its claim in case of infringements on the Internet.

In this respect, it is irrelevant whether there are courts that judge the case differently. The general risk is maintained as long as one individual court considers a violation of the German Telemedia Act as an unfair act.

Warnings by Consumer Protection Associations

In 2016, the legislator has also given German consumer protection associations the opportunity to vigorously condemn privacy policy violations.

Immediate Verification When Visiting a Website

The danger for website operators arises from the fact that one can recognize at first glance whether or not a company’s website has a compliant privacy policy. A single click is often sufficient. Therefore, companies should not only worry about the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation, but also ensure a current state of the privacy policy.

For questions in connection with European and German data protection regulations, our lawyers specialized in privacy law are at your disposal.