When is it Necessary to Use an Impressum and Why?
An "Impressum" is a page on a website where the owner writes about themselves. In some countries, it is against the law not to have an Impressum on the site. Learn more about who must include an Impressum on their website and the other criteria for doing so.
Many websites have a "About Us" section where the owner gives information about who they are and how to get in touch with them. More often than not, however, you won't find such a page, as most website owners would rather maintain their anonymity. While this is ideal, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for users to get in touch with the website owner about any issues they may have.
In some countries, the owners of commercial websites are required by law to post certain information about themselves. This is to make sure that everything is clear and to cut down on fraudulent activities. This would make it easy for customers to get a company's information and protect them from scams and frauds. It's important to note that the required statement about the website owner applies not only to websites, but also to newspapers, magazines, and other publications that are available to the public.
The Impressum (sometimes also called an Imprint) is a required page on all websites in German-speaking countries, such as Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, that reveals information about the publisher of that site. An Impressum is a basic legal notice that tells website visitors about the website or business owner and gives them basic information about the business.
For business websites and social media pages, you need an "Impressum." For example, if a business has a Facebook page, it must give the same information that is needed for the Impressum requirement. It's important to know that websites that are not for business or are personal and don't make money don't need an Impressum. For example, a blog owner who doesn't make any money from the blog doesn't have to put an Impressum on the blog. Learn the 6 Steps for Website Compliance.
Content of an Impressum
Even though national laws may have different requirements for what should be in an Impressum, it would usually include the following:
- Name of the owner or manager of the website
- Registered business address
- Contact information (i.e., phone number, email address)
- Official incorporation information (i.e., official name and registration number of the company)
To know exactly what to put in an Impressum, you need to find out if your country requires your website to have an Impressum or something similar, and if so, what information you need to put on your website. If you run a business website in a German-speaking country, you will definitely have to follow the rules of Impressum.
The rules for the Impressum requirement are set out in different laws. For example, the German Telemedia Act (Telemediengesetz) and the Austrian Media Act (Mediengesetz) both require websites, books, and newspapers to have an Impressum. In Switzerland, the same issue is dealt with by the Swiss Federal Law on Unfair Competition.
The German Telemedia Act requires all commercial websites to post the following information:
- Name, legal address, legal form in case of legal persons
- Contact details, including email address
- Information about commercial register and registration number
- If the business activity is subject of approval from a state agency, details of the relevant supervisory body
- VAT ID, if available
- If the occupation of the business owner is requiring a special license/permit, then information about the authority granting that license/permit, professional rules and how they can be accessed.
The Swiss Federal Law on Unfair Competition says that "anyone offering goods, work, or services through electronic commerce without meeting the following conditions is acting unfairly:... indicate clearly and fully its identity and contact address, including e-mail." This is why all business websites have to have an "Impressum" for their users.
Similar Arrangements in Other Jurisdictions
There are similar laws in other countries, even if they aren't always called "Impressum" or "Imprint." For example, French law says that all professional websites must have certain information on them, even if they don't sell anything online. This is to make sure that people who use websites can always get in touch with site owners and that their rights are always protected.
This is usually called "Legal Mentions" (Mentions Légales in French), and it must include the following information on the internet:
- Information about the entrepreneur (full name and domicile) or official registration name of companies
- Contact details of the company (or entrepreneur)
- Registration number and VAT number (where applicable)
- Information about the web hosting provider (name, contact details)
- CNIL declaration number (where available)
- For a regulated profession, reference to the professional rules applicable and the professional title
- General terms of sale, if the site is a merchant site
- Information about cookies
If a website doesn't have the required information, it could face fines as high as €75,000 for an individual or €375,000 for a business. Individuals can also be sent to prison for up to a year.
The requirement to have an Impressum is one of the most important parts of a website's compliance, even though most countries don't have to follow it. Website owners should research the relevant legal requirements to determine if they must include an Impressum on their page. The same is true for business pages on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. This will make sure you follow local Impressum laws or laws that require similar actions and keep you from getting fined a lot of money. Even if your country's laws don't require you to have an Impressum or something similar, you should still think about having one. This will help build trust between you and the people who use your website, which could lead to more business transactions.
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