New rules for T&Cs in Germany
2022 saw a number of changes introduced to German contract law, some of which came into force at the beginning of the year, while others became operative later on. We at the commercial law firm MTR Legal Rechtsanwälte can report that the changes have implications for, among other things, the manner in which general terms and conditions are drafted. Businesses must ensure that their T&Cs are legally compliant.
One of the key areas addressed by the revised rules is contract terms and notice periods for consumer contracts for the performance of a continuing obligation, examples of which include newspaper subscriptions, contracts between gyms and gymgoers, and energy supply contracts, with the latter being of particular interest in times of rising energy prices.
While contracts of this kind involving the regular delivery of goods or the provision of services can still provide for minimum terms of one or two years, consumers now enjoy more extensive cancellation rights. Whereas previously if consumers failed to give notice of cancellation on time the contract was usually automatically renewed, consumers now have the right in the case of contracts concluded on or after March 1, 2022 to terminate the contract with a notice period of no more than one month after the initial contract term has expired. Clauses in the terms and conditions to the contrary – for instance, which provide for a tacit extension of the contract by one year – are invalid. However, the old rules still apply to older contracts concluded before March 1, 2022, i.e., a tacit contract extension of up to one year and notice periods of up to three months are still possible in these instances.
A cancellation button is set to become mandatory from July 1, 2022 where these kinds of continuing obligations are entered into online. Its absence will allow consumers to terminate the contract at any time without having to comply with a notice period.
In addition, companies are no longer allowed to exclude the assignment of consumer claims in their T&Cs, whether they be monetary claims or rights. Clauses to this end are invalid.
Other changes relate to sales law, including changes to the requirements for assuming a material defect, and the six-month period for the reversal of the burden of proof in favor of the consumer has been increased to twelve months. So-called consumer contracts for digital products („Verbraucherverträge für digitale Produkte“) are also new.
Companies whose general terms and conditions do not comply with the new legal requirements should expect to be served warning notices. Lawyers with experience in the field of contract law can provide counsel.
MTR lawyers www.mtrlegal.com/en/ is an international full service law firm. The lawyers counsel on corporate and commercial law, business law, tax law, IT law and IP law and distribution law. The law firm advises international companies, corporations, mid-sized businesses and private clients worldwide. MTR Rechtsanwaelte can be found in Berlin Bonn Cologne Duesseldorf Frankfurt Hamburg Munich Stuttgart, Germany