Liability for Missing Cancellation Button

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Sales Platform Must Ensure Cancellation Option

Anyone offering subscriptions, training sessions, and similar services online must also ensure that a cancellation button is available on the same website. This requirement holds even if the website is not operated by the provider itself, but by an advertising partner. This was decided by the Hildesheim Regional Court in its judgment of January 9, 2024 (Case no.: 3 O 109/23).

Since 2022, online providers have been required to install a cancellation button on their website that allows consumers to easily terminate a subscription, according to the commercial law firm MTR Legal, which also provides advice on IT law.

Contract Conclusion through Reseller

The case before the Hildesheim Regional Court was more complicated. Here, a website operator offered an online guitar course. The course included several videos and other training materials. However, the subscription could not be directly booked through the order button on the site. Instead, interested consumers were redirected to a reseller’s page by clicking the order button. It was only there that the guitar course could be definitively booked and the contract concluded. The reseller thus became the contracting party with the customer, even though the offer was only accessible through the original course provider’s website.

Providers who offer such subscriptions online on a website are required to enable customers to easily cancel through a button on the same website. The issue here was that the original provider had not installed a cancellation button on their website. The contracting party was the reseller, who did not see himself responsible for the design of websites that he did not operate.

Injunction Suit by the Consumer Advice Centre

However, the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv) saw it differently and took action against the sales platform. According to consumer protectionists, the operator of the sales platform could not claim that he was not the operator of the website and therefore not responsible. The vzbv therefore demanded that the operator of the platform cease offering the service without an appropriate cancellation button and issue a declaration to cease and desist.

The Hildesheim Regional Court also came to the conclusion that the reseller was taking too easy an approach and upheld the injunction suit. The claim for an injunction was also justified when the violations in a company were committed by an employee or an agent. Here, although the cancellation button was missing on the website of the provider of the guitar course, this provider was to be regarded as an agent of the defendant, the Hildesheim Regional Court explained.

An agent could also be an independent company. It is crucial that they are integrated into the business organization to such an extent that their success also benefits the company, i.e., the business owner. The business owner must in turn have an enforceable influence on the commissioned company in whose area the contested behavior falls, the court further elaborated. These conditions were met here. The defendant had an interest in high demand for the guitar course, as it also benefited economically from it, and the offer was exclusively accessible through a link to the website without the required cancellation button. This extended the defendant’s business operations, according to the court.

Cancellation Button on the Same Website

As a reseller, the operator of the sales platform also had enforceable influence on the provider of the guitar course. He could have made it clear that the services would no longer be offered on the platform if the contested behavior was not changed, the Hildesheim Regional Court continued.

If consumers are enabled via a website to conclude a contract aimed at establishing an ongoing obligation online, the company must ensure that the consumer can properly or extraordinarily terminate the contract via a cancellation button on the same website. The defendant failed to do this and therefore violated a consumer protection law, the Hildesheim Regional Court decided.

The judgment is not yet final; an appeal has been filed with the Higher Regional Court of Celle (Case no.: 13 U 7/24).

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