When you build a website or web presence for your business in Germany, your “Impressum” must feature prominently. What is an Impressum and how do you write it?
What is an Impressum?
An Impressum is a mandatory page you need on your commercial (business) website if your business is based in Germany, Switzerland or Austria. An Impressum is all about transparency – it discloses information about the publisher of the website and how to communicate with the service provider. Use the royal “we” all you like in the content even if you’re a sole trader, just make sure your Impressum exposes you for who you really are. If you have a German business (even if you’re a freelancer) and you represent it with some sort of web presence, you must include an Impressum.
Which details must I include on an Impressum page?
- The name of the website publisher and/or owner
- The registered business address (a PO box is not good enough)
- Telephone number or e-mail address
- Trade register (HRA or HRB) number, if applicable
- VAT number if the sole trader/entity has one (A German VAT number would begin with “DE”)
- If the business is a limited liability company:
- the name and address of the company’s court of registration
- its commercial registry number
- the names of the managing directors
- If the business is subject to the supervision of a supervisory authority, the authority’s contact details
Do I need an Impressum on my social media pages too?
Yes, social media pages for a business must also include an Impressum. This is because the Telemedia Act does not distinguish between a social media page and a website – both are considered “telemedia”. Facebook (Meta) has responded to this by allowing business users in the DACH region to add an impressum to the Facebook page easily.
Any other Impressum rules I should be aware of?
- You must use the word “Impressum” in the title.
- Access to the page must be possible within 2 link clicks from the main page.
- Even if your domain doesn’t end with .de, you still need an Impressum if your business is based in the DACH region.
- If your website has journalistic content, you must also list the person responsible for the content.
- The Impressum must be translated into the languages represented on your website. If your website has content in English, Spanish and German, make your Impressum available in all those languages.
What are the consequences of not having an Impressum?
Ugly fines. Up to 50,000 EUR. Not necessarily from an authority – actually, it’s more likely you’d get a warning with a fine from a lawyer looking to raise revenue quickly and easily. You need to know about Mahnwellen when you live in Germany – that’s German for “a wave of warning notices”. There are lawyers out there whose job it is to make life difficult for their clients’ competitors by claiming damages for a missing or incomplete Impressum. If your website doesn’t have one, you might get a cease-and-desist letter with a fine or the threat of a fine that can be reduced if you negotiate. Nasty business.
A tip from All About Berlin: Don’t let search engines index your Impressum page. Some lawyers will search with the goal to find Impressum pages that are not written correctly.
How do I write an Impressum?
Feel free to look at our Impressum and use it to inspire yours. But keep in mind that your business is completely different from ours and so your Impressum will look vastly different too. An alternative is to use a site like e-recht24, which can generate an Impressum in English and German by asking you questions. This is what I did when I started Red Tape Translation. You’d need a Premium monthly subscription to do this, but you can always cancel it once you have what you need.
This is too hard. How can I make sure I am always compliant?
Most business consultants will recommend to you that you are always transparent about your business on all forms of correspondence, e.g. by developing a letterhead / footer that simply contains everything you could ever need in it, developing an email signature for every thread, creating an Impressum on all sites and platforms and keeping it up to date. If you’ve nothing to hide, this is generally the safest option.
Red Tape Translation UG’s business correspondence
Here’s a preview of the Red Tape Translation footer on our outgoing written correspondence.
This is what all our outgoing emails look like.
About Berlin has a great guide to running a website in Germany that covers the Impressum, among other topics.
I don’t want to publish my home address on my German website!
This is a very common dilemma – your business is registered at your home address and you are obligated to include the physical address on your Impressum and outgoing correspondence. One option is to hire a business address. We now offer this: get a virtual office at Red Tape Translation in Pankow, Berlin.