Written by solicitor Thomas Meier-Bading 2023-10-12 at 09:03

General Terms in German law


Transparent and fair General Terms are crucial for consumers, while businesses must apply them consistently to all customers to avoid legal issues. Due to potential legal complexities, smaller foreign businesses dealing with German consumers may focus on other consumer protection rules rather than on their General Terms.
Ø Reading time: 2 min.
table of contents:
  • General Terms and Conditions an Germany
  • General Terms in respect to consumers
  • General Terms in respect to business-customers
  • General Terms in respect to competitors
  • conclusion
  • Rating for this site

General Terms and Conditions an Germany

Although in Germany General Terms (in German: „Allgemeine Geschäfts­bedingungen” or simply „AGB”) play a less important rule than in countries with common law, many companies use them in order to determine the rules of their business. Nevertheless, many things have to be taken care for because otherwise the „AGB” render invalid, which can lead to severe problems.

General Terms in respect to consumers

picture: ai, prompt: Thomas Meier-Bading

Under German law, the General Terms must be transparent, fair and comprehensible to consumers. They have to be made available to the consumers before the conclusion of a contract, allowing them the opportunity to review and consent to the terms. Any ambiguous or one-sided clauses that unduly disadvantage the consumer may be deemed invalid by German courts.
Also, clauses may not differ to much from the law. The consumer may be improperly overcharged by such rules.

General Terms in respect to business-customers

One crucial aspect of General Terms in German law is the principle of equal treatment. This means that businesses must apply their General Terms consistently to all customers, ensuring fairness and avoiding discriminatory practices. Failure to adhere to this principle may render specific clauses unenforceable.

In the event of disputes, German law places a significant emphasis on General Terms' clarity and fairness. Courts may scrutinize the reasonableness of contractual terms, and any ambiguity or unfair advantage given to one party over the other could lead to the invalidation of those specific clauses.

General Terms in respect to competitors

The main problem is not a court but malicious competitors. Competitors have a very strong means to act against improper General Terms. If one of them gets notice of you using invalid clauses in your General Terms, he may have his lawyer send you a cease-and-desist-letter, which can be very expensive to the loosing party.


Businesses operating in Germany need to be meticulous in drafting and implementing their General Terms to comply with the legal requirements and provide transparency and fairness to consumers. Regular updates and revisions to General Terms are often necessary to align with changes in legislation and maintain legal compliance in the dynamic business landscape.
To any businesses from abroad who deal with German customers, I would highly recommend to have their General Terms checked because it’s a hornet’s nest. Also other consumer-protection rules will need your legal attention, e.g a properly implemented website.

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