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Fair Commerce – Against the Abuse of Legal Warnings

Legal written warnings have been the scourge of e-commerce for ages and at their worst can threaten one’s online presence. As the representative for the e-commerce industry, we see the hardships that online retailers have to deal with on a daily basis.
Together with our members, we have established the Fair Commerce – Against the Abuse of Legal Warnings Initiative. Competition in online trade is good and important – but we want that competition to be fair!

After only one year, 50,000 online shops have already joined the Fair Commerce Initiative. Come aboard!

"The goal of our initiative is to create fair competition. For me, that means having fair dealings between the retailers. Mistakes should be able to be dealt with without cost."

Andreas Arlt, Chairman, Händlerbund

Does the initiative mean that Händlerbund is against legal warnings?

No, the initiative isn’t in place to abolish legal warnings. Legal warnings are market-regulating and an important instrument against unfair competition and/or legal violations.

Do participants in the initiative lose their right to give legal written warnings?

No, the initiative is not meant to waive one’s right to legally warn other parties.

The initiative’s goal is to assist the participants in maintaining an even playing field, clearing up competition, brand and copyright violations efficiently and at no cost.

If the warned party doesn’t react within 7 days or a satisfactory outcome is not reached within said period, a legal warning (at cost) can be issued or court action can be sought out.

What security do I have that when I “warn” a competitor and move ahead without a legal written warning, that they immediately remove the legal discrepancy (-ies)?

The initiative’s goal is to clear up competition, brand and copyright violations efficiently and at no cost.

As a participant in the initiative you can rest assured that when you find a legal discrepancy in an online shop from another participant, that participant will remove the discrepancy when asked.

A waiver of claims of injunction or other forms of financial harm, i.e.- brand or copyright claims is not meant.

Does the initiative come at any cost to me?

The initiative comes at absolutely no cost to you. On the contrary, you help to keep costs down with your participation.

Do I have to renounce my claims for damages?

The initiative gives the participants the chance to clear up discrepancies without costly legal written warnings.

All other claims will not be affected by this. This means that an adversarial claim generated by you towards another party is punishable by law; that includes all other claims of this sort, i.e.- those involving copyright law and brand infringement , as well as entitlement to information or damage claims.

Is there a standard template I can use when I write to a competitor?

No, we don’t offer such a template.

It is enough to write a letter in which you state clearly the identified mistakes and requirements.

What happens when I receive, without any advance warning, a legal written warning from a participant of the Händlerbund Initiative?

These kinds of legal written warnings point out the entire purpose of the initiative; to detect legal errors and point out requirements of the party being warned. No costs arise in these cases (at least not for the one giving the warning).

What happens when the party being warned doesn’t react?

If the party being warned doesn’t react within 7 days or if no satisfactory agreement is reached, then the path to a legal written warning (at cost) can be taken as well as seeking court action.

How can I become a participant in the initiative?

Every member of the Händlerbund with the memberships Basic, Premium and Unlimited can take part in the Initiative. The only requirement is to recognise the Participation Rules of the Fair Commerce Initiative. The Initiative Application can be completed in the member area of the website.

The Results of the Fair Commerce - Against the Abuse of Legal Warnings Survey

Among the online merchants, the Fair Commerce Initiative is being met with a lot of support - the result of the current Fair Commerce Survey.

Therefore, 96% of our Händlerbund members have joined the Fair Commerce Initiative.

Nearly all member (99%) agree that legal discrepancies in their online shops or websites should be pointed out before a legal written warning is issued.

Just as many members (99%) agree that they would like to be notified by their fellow members/participants if they have legal discrepancies in their online shops or websites before a legal written warning is issued.

Download as PDF

This is how you know someone is participating in the initiative.

Every participant in the initiative is known by the following note in their “About Us” section in the corresponding online presence:

"We are a member of the Fair Commerce Initiative"
Further information can be found at:

In addition, each participant can use the FairCommerce logo for integration on its website and in its business communication.

Our Supporters

"Fair Commerce and the way to get there requires constructive criticism without building resentment or, from some other motivation, letting merchants with a legal discrepancy to grope around in the dark. I want the merchants to handle each other fairly. We’re all in the same boat anyway. I see this initiative by the Händlerbund as a great step forward against the abuse of legal written warnings and hope that it gains many, many online merchants."
Petra Pötzsch, the exclusive man

"Together we are FAIR - a very strong statement! You hear all the time that legal warnings and such are a tough hurdle in online trade. As a small business owner, that was a reason I waited so long to start my shop, Leos-hundehalstuch.de. It doesn’t always matter who the best, biggest or strongest is. There are still the “good and the fair”! That’s why I feel secure with these business partners when it comes to my online shop. We talked about it and it didn’t become an issue for the courts! Fairness is a strong leg to stand on that I couldn’t do without. That’s why I support the Fair Commerce Initiative."
Patrick Lehr, Managing Director, Leos Hundhalstuch

"I am very thankful for the Fair Commerce Initiative and hope it can assert itself further. With the amount of data one deals with when running an online shop, it is important not to forget that people sometimes make mistakes. If you are an entrepreneur who generally tries to do things right, who tries to stay within the law and rules, then you have earned a chance to deal with a mistake without having to dig deep into your pockets. That’s why I support the Fair Commerce Initiative."
Cheryl Bennett, Managing Director ecoco.bio:

"Many years ago, we became aware of the Händlerbund and have learned a lot about law-related things since then. Now we can go one step further when we see something pertaining to legal warnings. It is terrible to realise how some “affected“ parties react when they are notified of faulty or old passages (often involving return policies). That makes Fair Commerce very important because “there is still a lot to do…"
Ralph Ehlers, wohnen und mehr:

"I find we online merchants should think of ourselves more as a community and, together, bring our industry further. Naturally, fair competition with each other and the upholding of legal provisions go hand-in-hand with this. And when there is an issue with a competitor, I am all for the “short way” and try to build a direct line of communication to solve the problem rather than involving a third party. I want this to happen more with everyone so as not to waste time and resources that could be better implemented to develop business. I don’t think I’m alone in my opinion and that is why I welcome the Fair Commerce Initiative - Against the Abuse of Legal Warnings!"
Toralf Schneider, net4x UG

"The greatest task of we online merchants is to reflect our values in the online-world: Trust, Loyalty, Solidarity. We have to begin it, we must be able to trust one another. That also means that we have to keep our good, old values within the Händlerbund alive: Talk before Court Action, Constructive Cooperation with one another, Solidarity."
Giada Armani, GIADA.BERLIN

"The abuse of legal warnings uses the powerful and harms the weak. Fair competition cannot mean that competitors (I am consciously not using the term “members”) are relentlessly beaten into ruin. I hope that, through the Fair Commerce Initiative of the Händlerbund, this problem will be better addressed and take centre stage in the future."
Sven Pohl, Sven Pohl EDV-Beratung

"We see ourselves as a tried-and-true price comparison for our users. In the sense of a successful brand we take the legal security of the shops on our platform very seriously and check our shops for the legal content actively. In our experience, shop owners react instantly when they are warned of a legal discrepancy. A legal written warning has on one hand a positive consumer-protecting effect whilst having a lot of costs and stress for the shop on the other. The same goes when competition is threatened instead of the consumer. We’ve also had good experiences in these cases with direct contact with the shops. That is why we happily support the Fair Commerce Initiative. In addition, we offer ourselves as moderator if something isn’t happening “on line"."
Philipp Peitsch, Managing Director idealo internet GmbH

Successful e-commerce companies are active internationally - and every country has its legal peculiarities & standards. Of course, there is a lot of competition in our industry at the moment that needs to be dealt with reasonably and intelligently.

Unfortunately, sending legal written warnings has become some kind of sport in Germany that costs a lot of time, energy and bother; whilst many innovations fall by the wayside. It would be much more effective if the industry would unite itself to work on the good of the customers, and the customers customers, to offer the best possible customer service.

In this way everyone involved would win - that is why we support the Fair Commerce Initiative and gladly stand as its contact in Austria.

Stephan Grad, Managing Director A-COMMERCE

"Fair competition is important in every industry. At the moment in the e-commerce industry, there are existence-threatening legal warnings that could be dealt with much more fairly. I can only support the Fair Commerce Initiative and call all others to work better - together. I can only say: “Who harms his competitor today, can only be harmed tomorrow."
Lukas Herbst, Founder & Managing Director startupbrett.de

"As a shop system producer we have an ear open to our merchants and have firsthand experience dealing with the irritation and sometimes the existence-threatening effects of legal written warnings. That is why we support this initiative by the Händlerbund with all of our strength."
Wiljo Krechting, Press Officer shopware AG

"Clearing up and offering assistance for cases involving legal written warnings not only helps in cutting costs but makes business more transparent for both the customers and the business partners creating better advertising appeal for the merchants themselves."
Freya Oehle, Founder spottster

"In principle, the sense of legal written warnings - hindering competition distortion and bringing errors to light - isn’t wrong. Today, these warnings are used to make others look better through the errors; and that is not what they were meant for. As an Advisory Board Member of the Händlerbund we gladly support the Fair Commerce Initiative."
Michael Wendt, Co-Founder Locafox

"The Fair Commerce Initiative of the Händlerbund offers our young, aspiring enterprises the backing and fairness necessary in e-commerce."
Robin Stein, Managing Director BABO Beverages UG

"About Us, Privacy Policies and Return Policies - these topics are on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Packaging ordinances and, with that, the duty for licensing of packaging materials to end consumers get to many online merchants too late. As one of the dual systems in Germany, we see ourselves as being responsible for bringing this theme to light for the online merchants in a simple way whilst giving them well thought-out solutions. After all, legal written warnings can prove to be existence-threatening for small enterprises. We support the Fair Commerce Initiative of the Händlerbund - for fair competition in e-commerce!"
Sarah Pfeiffer, National Account Manager Landbell AG

"Working together fairly with each other is essential both on personal and professional levels. A healthy business relationship can also only be developed when competitors are on an equal footing. As a dependable partner of online trade we support the purpose of the Fair Commerce Initiative to bring the market forward together and not against one another."
Stefan Bures, Founder and Managing Director der metoda gmbh

"As a young and innovative seller, www.meineTanne.de, offering special, seasonal products (Christmas trees) we feel that fairness with both our customers and our suppliers is an important part of our business. We put ourselves forth for fair trade - also with competitors!"
Guido Veth, Founder www.meinetanne.de

Information Request

Would you like to become a participant in “Fair Commerce” or would like to have further information?
Then contact us - we will get back to you without delay!

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The terms of participation on the Fair Commerce Initiative can be found here.

Do you have any questions, suggestions or wishes for the Fair Commerce Initiative? Write to us by email at faircommerce@haendlerbund.de or phone us at +49 341 926590.

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