31 October 2008

If you are a service provider, you better have a phone number!

Outlaw has recently commented on the ruling of the European Court of Justice ('ECJ') in the case of Bundesverband der Verbraucherzentralen und Verbraucherverbände РVerbraucherzentrale Bundesverband eV v deutsche internet versicherung AG.

The Plaintiff sued the Defendants on the ground that the latter did not provide its phone number to its potential customers before the conclusion of a commercial transaction. DIV did give policy buyers the phone number, but only after the conclusion of a contract.


The case was refered to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of Article 5(1) of the E-Commerce Directive which provides that:


‘1. In addition to other information requirements established by Community law, Member States shall ensure that the service provider shall render easily, directly and permanently accessible to the recipients of the service and competent authorities, at least the following information:
(a) the name of the service provider;
(b) the geographic address at which the service provider is established;
(c) the details of the service provider, including his electronic mail address, which allow him to be contacted rapidly and communicated with in a direct and effective manner;
…’

The ECJ was asked to adjudicate on whether Article 5(1) required websites which fell within the ambit of the Directive to provide any other additional means of contact other than their postal and emal address.


The ECJ ruled that companies have a duty to provide a means of contact on their websites in addition to their postal and email addresses. The ECJ further ruled that an acceptable means of contact includes a telephone number or a contact form that is answered within an hour.


This ruling will have a wide ranging commercial impact as it will force service providers to put in place a more advanced system to communicate with their customers than they currently do. This will have considerable financial impact on the business model of those providers.

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