Providing material information

A company has an extensive obligation to provide information. Among other things, the company must inform consumers about the name and address of the company, the product that is being marketed and its price, and the company’s practices in a customer relationship.

A company has an obligation to provide information

The types of information that a company must provide to the consumer are listed in the Consumer Protection Act. In addition, the company may have an obligation to also provide other material information. The obligation to provide information is usually assessed individually in each case: some situations require more information than others.

Obligation to provide information when marketing a certain product or service

When a company is marketing a certain product or service at a given price, it must provide at least the following information in its marketing communication:

  • main features of the goods or services, to the extent this is necessary considering the advertised product and used marketing mediumthe trader’s name and address
  • total price of the goods or services including tax, or the grounds for determining the price if it is not possible to indicate an exact price
  • delivery costs not included in the total price or the information that the customer may have to pay such costs if the costs cannot be reasonably calculated in advance
  • practices concerning payment, delivery, fulfilment of the contract and customer complaints if they differ from what consumers generally have reason to expect
  • possible right to terminate or cancel the contract.

Information that must be provided before a contract is concluded

In addition to other provisions on the obligation to provide information in the Consumer Protection Act, in other sales than home and distance sales of consumer products, the company must give the consumer the following information in a clear and comprehensible form, unless this information is otherwise obvious in the context:

  • main features of the goods or services, to the extent this is necessary
  • the trader’s name, address and telephone number
  • total price of the goods or services including tax, or the grounds for determining the price if it is not possible to indicate an exact price
  • if necessary, delivery costs not included in the total price or the information that the customer may have to pay such costs if the costs cannot be reasonably calculated in advance
  • if necessary, the practices related to payment, delivery and customer complaints
  • a reference to statutory liability for defects in the goods and, if necessary, a reference to customer support, other after-sales customer assistance and warranty as well as their conditions
  • if necessary, the contract period, or the terms and conditions of terminating a contract that is valid until further notice or continued automatically
  • if necessary, information about the performance of digital content, including its compatibility with hardware and software to the extent that the trader has, or can reasonably be expected to have, knowledge about it.

Specific obligations to provide information apply to distance and home sales.

Obligation to provide information about combined offers or free gifts

If a company markets goods or services for a combined price, or by giving the customer another product or some other specific advantage in connection with the sale, the marketing communication must clearly state:

  • the content and value of the offer and the individual prices of the goods offered for a combined price, unless the price of the goods, when purchased separately, is less than ten euros
  • terms of the offer, including its period of validity and any quantitative and other restrictions

The obligation to provide information applies to the marketing of a specific advantage and other special offers. It applies to both combined offers consisting of similar products and free gifts, where an additional product is offered, apparently for free, in connection with the main product. The value of the additional product is usually low.

The obligation to provide information also applies to special offer marketing, in which the advantage is a lower than usual campaign price. It additionally applies to bulk discounts: these are situations where a consumer who buys a certain quantity of goods gets them, or some of them, for a discounted price.

A specific advantage may also consist of returning a proportion of the price of purchases the consumer has made within a certain time period as cash or vouchers. This includes advantages associated with different loyalty programmes.

The common feature of such offers usually is that the consumer must buy a product or service to get the advantage.

Obligation to provide information when organising marketing lotteries

If a company uses draws, competitions or games in marketing, it must clearly state the conditions for participating in them. The conditions must also be easily accessible.

Omissions of material information

All material information must be given to the consumer in marketing or a customer relations. The company must also always provide any information necessary for the consumer’s health and safety.

A company may not fail to give the consumer material information which, in its factual context, the consumers needs to make a purchase decision or some other decision and the absence of which may lead to a decision that the consumer would not have made if they had sufficient information.

This is how sufficiency of information is assessed

Provided information can be considered insufficient if the information is unclear, unintelligible or untimely. If the information is unclear or the company provides it too late considering the consumer’s decision, the company can be considered to have neglected their obligation to provide information.

When assessing the sufficiency of provided information, the limitations of the communication medium used are also taken into account, including the duration of a TV commercial. If the medium used is subject to limitations of time and space, it may be sufficient for the trader to provide the complete information by other means. However, the impression created based on a television or radio commercial alone must not be misleading.

Any measures taken by the trader to make the information available to consumers by other means are taken into account in deciding whether sufficient information has been provided.

The scope of the obligation to provide information is assessed individually in each case

It is not possible to determine fully in advance which information is material in each individual case.

The content and scope of the obligation to provide information vary depending on the context: for example, the obligation to provide information is usually more limited in a company’s general image advertising than when marketing a particular product or service.