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Chapter 3: Selling U.S. Products and Services

Using an Agent or Distributor

Companies wishing to use distribution, franchising and agency arrangements need to ensure that the agreements they put into place are in accordance with EU and member state national laws. Council Directive 86/653/EEC establishes certain minimum standards of protection for self-employed commercial agents who sell or purchase goods on behalf of their principals. The Directive establishes the rights and obligations of the principal and its agents, the agent’s remuneration and the conclusion and termination of an agency contract. It also establishes the notice to be given and indemnity or compensation to be paid to the agent. U.S. companies should be particularly aware that according to the Directive, parties may not derogate from certain requirements. Accordingly, the inclusion of a clause specifying an alternate body of law to be applied in the event of a dispute will likely be ruled invalid by European courts.

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The European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition enforces legislation concerned with the effects on competition in the internal market of "vertical agreements." U.S. small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs) are exempt from these regulations because their agreements likely would qualify as "agreements of minor importance," meaning they are considered incapable of impacting competition at the EU level but useful for cooperation between SMEs. Generally speaking, companies with fewer than 250 employees and an annual turnover of less than EUR50 million are considered small- and medium-sized. The EU has additionally indicated that agreements that affect less than 10% of a particular market are generally exempted (Commission Notice 2014/C 291/01).

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The EU also looks to combat payment delays. The new Directive 2011/7/EU, which replaced the current law in March 2013, covers all commercial transactions within the EU, whether in the public or private sector, primarily dealing with the consequences of late payment. Transactions with consumers, however, do not fall within the scope of this Directive. Directive 2011/7/EU entitles a seller who does not receive payment for goods and/or services within 30 days of the payment deadline to collect interest (at a rate of 8% above the European Central Bank rate) as well as 40 Euro as compensation for recovery of costs. For business-to-business transactions a 60-day period may be negotiated subject to conditions. The seller may also retain the title to goods until payment is completed and may claim full compensation for all recovery costs.

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Companies’ agents and distributors can take advantage of the European Ombudsman when victim of inefficient management by an EU institution or body. Complaints can be made to the European Ombudsman only by businesses and other bodies with registered offices in the EU. The Ombudsman can act upon these complaints by investigating cases in which EU institutions fail to act in accordance with the law, fail to respect the principles of good administration, or violate fundamental rights. In addition, SOLVIT, a network of national centers, offers online assistance to citizens and businesses who encounter problems with transactions within the borders of the single market.

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Establishing an Office

Anyone can open an office in Germany - irrespective of nationality or place of residence. There is no specific investment legislation in Germany, nor is a minimum percentage of German shareholdings required for foreigners. Investors can choose the most suitable legal form; i.e., a corporation, a partnership or conduct business via a German branch office.

Foreign companies with a head office and registered business operations outside of Germany can establish a German branch office. This business form is suitable for a foreign company wishing to establish a presence in Germany for the purpose of initiating business and maintaining contacts with business partners.

For more information see below:


U.S. businesses looking to franchise within the European Union will likely find that the market is quite robust and friendly to franchise systems in general. There are a number of laws that govern the operation of franchises within the EU, but these laws are fairly broad and generally, do not constrain the competitive position of U.S. businesses. The potential franchiser should take care to look not only at the EU legislation, but also at the local laws concerning franchising. More information on specific legislation can be found on the website of the European Franchise Federation:

Direct Marketing

The EU has yet to adopt legislation harmonizing the direct-selling of consumer products. However, there is a wide-range of EU legislation that impacts direct marketing. Compliance requirements are stiffest for marketing and sales to private consumers. Companies need to focus, in particular, on the clarity and completeness of the information they provide to consumers prior to purchase and on their approaches to collecting and using customer data. The following gives a brief overview of the most important provisions based on EU-wide rules on distance-selling and on-line commerce. In addition, it is important for exporters relying on a direct-selling business model to ensure they comply with member state requirements.

Processing Customer Data

The EU has strict laws governing the protection of personal data, including the use of such data in the context of direct marketing activities. For more information on these rules, please see the Data Privacy section above.

Distance Selling Rules

In 2011, the EU overhauled its consumer protection legislation and merged several existing rules into a single rulebook - “the Consumer Rights Directive.” The provisions of this Directive have been in force since June 13, 2014. The Directive contains provisions on core information to be provided by traders prior to the conclusion of consumer contracts. It also regulates the right of withdrawal, includes rules on the costs for the use of means of payment and bans pre-ticked boxes.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

In 2013, the EU adopted rules on Alternative Dispute Resolution which provide consumers the right to turn to quality alternative dispute resolution entities for all types of contractual disputes including purchases made online or offline, domestically or across borders. A specific Online Dispute Resolution Regulation, operational in January 2016, sets up an EU-wide online platform to handle consumer disputes that arise from online transactions.

New Legislation

In December 2015, the European Commission released two draft Directives, one on “contracts for the supply of digital content” and another on “contracts for the online and other distance sales of goods.”  This package addresses the legal fragmentation and lack of clear contractual rights for faulty digital content and distance selling across the EU.  The package only addresses B2C contracts, although its scope uses a very broad definition of both digital content (including music, movies, apps, games, films, social media, cloud storage services, broadcasts of sport events, visual modelling files for 3D printing) and distance selling goods so as to cover Internet of Things (such as connected households appliances and toys).  It also applies to transactions whether in the context of a monetary transaction or in exchange of (personal) consumer data.  Healthcare, gambling and financial services are excluded.  The package is currently under scrutiny at both the European Parliament and Council. Its adoption is expected the first half of 2017.

Key Links:
Consumer Affairs Homepage:
Consumer Rights:

Distance Selling of Financial Services

Financial services are the subject of a separate directive that came into force in June 2002 (2002/65/EC). This piece of legislation amended three prior existing Directives and is designed to ensure that consumers are appropriately protected with respect to financial transactions taking place where the consumer and the provider are not face-to-face. In addition to prohibiting certain abusive marketing practices, the Directive establishes criteria for the presentation of contract information. Given the special nature of financial markets, specifics are also laid out for contractual withdrawal.

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Direct Marketing over the Internet

The e-commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) imposes certain specific requirements for the direct marketing business. Promotional offers must not mislead customers and the terms that must be met to qualify for them have to be clear and easily accessible. The Directive stipulates that marketing e-mails must be identified as such to the recipient and requires that companies targeting customers on-line must regularly consult national opt-out registers where they exist. When an order is placed, the service provider must acknowledge receipt quickly and by electronic means, although the Directive does not attribute any legal effect to the placing of an order or its acknowledgment: this is a matter for national law. Vendors of electronically supplied services (such as software, which the EU considers a service and not a good) must also collect value added tax (see Electronic Commerce section below). The European Commission has performed a stakeholder’s consultation and is currently assessing the opportunity to propose a revision of the e-commerce Directive.

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Most German enterprises use direct marketing to sell their products and services. The most frequently used formats are email and Internet marketing, telephone marketing, direct mail and inserts in publications. It is important to know the pitfalls of using direct marketing as a selling tool in Germany. Data protection and privacy laws are stringent, and consumer protection guidelines and competitive advertising are also highly regulated. Companies should consult with a lawyer before raising, storing or processing any sort of data in Germany. Other potential challenges regard the laws pertaining to unfair competition and rebates.

Joint Ventures/Licensing

Dealing with joint ventures ranks among the most difficult jobs under German competition law. In Germany, joint venture legislation falls under the purview of the Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt: The law requires that a joint venture must exercise “genuine entrepreneurial” activities. Under German law, this means:

  • Organizations which merely carry out auxiliary functions such as purchasing or distribution on behalf of the parents are not considered joint ventures; and
  • JVs must have at their disposal sufficient assets and personnel to carry out their activities.

The Bundeskartellamt is required to prohibit a merger if it is "expected to create or strengthen a dominant position.” Market dominance is defined as an undertaking which either has no competitors or is not exposed to any substantial competition or has a paramount market position in relation to its competitors.


German antitrust law does not, in the absence of a dominant market position, restrict the owner’s freedom to use her/his industrial property rights, including the exploitation of a patented innovation.

Selling to the Government


Selling to German government entities is not an easy process. German government procurement is formally non-discriminatory and compliant with the GATT Agreement on Government Procurement and the European Community's procurement directives. That said, it is a major challenge to compete head-to-head with major German or other EU suppliers who have established long-term ties with purchasing entities.

EU Legislation

Government procurement in Europe is governed by both international obligations under the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) and EU-wide legislation under the EU Public Procurement Directives. U.S.-based companies are allowed to bid on public tenders covered by the GPA, while European subsidiaries of U.S. companies may bid on all public procurement contracts covered by the EU Directives in the European Union.

The EU directives on public procurement have recently been revised and new legislation on concession has also been adopted. Member States were required to transpose the provisions of the new directives by April 16, 2016. The four relevant legislations are:

  • Directive 2014/24/EU (replacing Directive 2004/18/EC) on the coordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contracts applies to the general sector;
  • Directive 2014/25/EU (replacing Directive 2004/17/EC) coordinating the procurement procedures of entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors;
  • Directive 2009/81/EC on defense and sensitive security procurement. This Directive sets Community rules for the procurement of arms, munitions and war material (plus related works and services) for defense purposes, but also for the procurement of sensitive supplies, works and services for non-military security purposes;
  • Directive 2014/23/EU on the award of concession contracts. A concession contract (either for the delivery of works or services) is conducted between a public authority and a private enterprise that gives the right to the company to build infrastructure and operate businesses that would normally fall within the jurisdiction of the public authority (e.g. highways).

The EU has three remedy directives imposing common standards for all Member States to abide by in case bidders identify discriminatory public procurement practices.

Electronic versions of the procurement documentation must be available through an internet URL immediately on publication of the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) contract notice. Full electronic communication (with some exceptions) will become mandatory for public contracts 4.5 years after the Public Contracts Directive 2014/24 comes into force (i.e. October 2018). For central purchasing bodies, the deadline is three years (April 2017).

Electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) will be introduced from the 3rd quarter of 2018, based on the requirement set forth in Directive 2014/55/EU. The Directive makes the receipt and processing of electronic invoices in public procurement obligatory. Standards for e-invoicing are being developed by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN).

There are restrictions for U.S. suppliers in the EU utilities sector, both in the EU Utilities Directive and in EU coverage of the GPA. Article 85 of Directive 2014/25 allows EU contracting authorities to either reject non-EU bids where the proportion of goods originating in non-EU countries exceeds 50 percent or give preference to the EU bid if prices are equivalent (meaning within a three percent margin). Moreover, the Directive allows EU contracting authorities to retain the right to suspend or restrict the award of service contract to undertaking in third countries where no reciprocal access is granted.

There are also restrictions in the EU coverage of the GPA that apply specifically to U.S.-based companies. U.S. companies are not allowed to bid on works and services contracts procured by sub-central public contracting authorities in the following sectors:

  • Water sector
  • Airport services
  • Urban transport sector as described above, and railways in general
  • Dredging services and procurement related to shipbuilding

Distribution and Sales Channels


Distribution channels are varied and similar to the United States. There are certain restrictions, however, concerning multi-level networking systems, i.e., so-called snowball or pyramid distribution systems. More information:

Express Delivery

Most international express delivery companies are active in Germany. Large players include DHL and Hermes (both headquartered in Germany), FedEx and UPS. These companies ship domestically and internationally, provide a wide range of delivery options and prices, and have grown significantly as a result of e-commerce. The express delivery industry had 209,000 employees in Germany in 2015; almost 3 billion packages were shipped.

Selling Factors and Techniques

Success in the German market, as elsewhere around the world, requires long-term commitment to market development and sales backup, especially if U.S. companies are to overcome the geographic handicap with respect to European competitors. Germans at times perceive U.S. suppliers as tending to process a U.S. domestic order before taking care of an export sale, or being quick to bypass a local distributor to deal directly with its customer. Some German entrepreneurs with selective experience with U.S. companies are skeptical about their long-term commitment and after-sales support. U.S. firms entering Germany today are generally aware of the factors that make for a successful export relationship and are ready to establish a credible support network. However, U.S. firms should be ready to address any lingering doubts from prospective German clients/partners.



Over 51 million Internet users above the age of 14 make Germany one of the European leaders in e-commerce with transactions of over USD 62 billion in 2015. is the leading online retailer with sales of USD 11.8 billion in 2015. Mobile Internet access is being used by over 51 percent of Internet users. The most popular product categories are clothing/footwear, books, magazines, consumer electronics, films, cosmetics, groceries and toys. Price, trust and product diversity play a major role in determining where products are purchased. More than half of German GDP is expected to be e-commerce related in 2017.

EU Legislation

Creating a Digital Single Market (DSM) is one of the ten priorities of the European Commission (EC).  The overall objective is to bring down barriers, regulatory or otherwise, to unlock online opportunities in Europe, from e-commerce to e-government.  By doing so, the EU hopes to have a way with its currently 28 member countries and create one borderless market with harmonized legislation and rules for the benefit of businesses and consumers alike throughout Europe.

The European Commission set out a high-level vision in its May 6, 2015 DSM Strategy which will be followed by a number of specific and concrete legislative proposals and policy actions to be developed in 2015-2016.  They are broad reaching and include reforming e-commerce sector, VAT, copyright, consumer protection and data privacy laws.  DSM-related legislation will have a broad impact on U.S. companies doing business in Europe.

The three main pillars of the strategy are:

I: e-commerce

  • better access for consumers and businesses to online goods and services across Europe
  • remove key differences between the online and offline worlds to break down barriers to cross-border online activity.

II: digital networks and services

  • achieve high-speed, secure and trustworthy infrastructures and content services
  • get the right regulatory conditions for innovation, investment, fair competition and a level playing field.

III: growth potential of the European Digital Economy

  • invest in ICT infrastructures and technologies such as Cloud computing and Big Data, and research and innovation to boost industrial competiveness and skills
  • increase interoperability and standardization

For more information:

DSM Strategy:

The German regulatory environment is following the European Union “Electronic Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) as mentioned in the section “Direct Marketing" above, providing rules for online services in the EU. It requires providers to abide by rules in the country where they are established (country of origin). Online providers must respect consumer protection rules such as indicating contact details on their website, clearly identifying advertising and protecting against spam. The Directive also grants exemptions to liability for intermediaries that transmit illegal content by third parties and for unknowingly hosting content. The European Commission released a work plan in 2012 in order to facilitate cross-border online services and reduce barriers and released a report on implementation of the action plan in 2013.

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The EU applies Value Added Tax (VAT) to sales by non-EU based companies of Electronically Supplied Services (ESS) to EU-based non-business customers. U.S. companies that are covered by the rule must collect and submit VAT to EU tax authorities. From 1 January 2015, all supplies of telecommunications, broadcasting and electronic services are taxable at the place where the customer is located. In the case of businesses this means either the country where a business is registered or the country where it has fixed premises receiving the service. In the case of consumers, it is where they are registered, have their permanent address, or usually live.

As part of the legislative changes of 2015, the Commission has launched the “Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS)” scheme, the use of which is optional. It is meant to facilitate the sales of ESS from taxable to non-taxable persons (B2C) located in Member States in which the sellers do not have an establishment to account for the VAT.

This scheme allows taxable persons (sellers) to avoid registering in each Member State of consumption. A taxable person who is registered for the mini One Stop Shop in a Member State (the Member State of Identification) can electronically submit quarterly mini One Stop Shop VAT returns detailing supplies of ESS to non-taxable persons in other Member States (the Member State(s) of consumption), along with the VAT due.

The most important pieces of legislation on VAT are the EU VAT Directive 2006/112/EC and its Implementing Regulation 282/2011.

Further information relating to VAT on ESS:

Trade Promoting and Advertising

Trade Fairs

Few countries in the world can match Germany when it comes to leading international trade fairs. Such a reputation should be no surprise given that the trade fair concept was born in Germany during the Middle Ages. Today, Germany hosts a major world-class trade event in virtually every industry sector, attracting buyers from around the world. Trade fairs thrive in Germany because they are true business events where contracts are negotiated and deals are consummated. The U.S. exhibitors at German fairs should be prepared to take full advantage of the business opportunities presented at these events. While U.S. exhibitors and visitors can conclude transactions, all attendees can use major German trade fairs to conduct market research, see what their worldwide competition is doing, and test pricing strategies. Finally, German fairs attract buyers from throughout the world, allowing U.S. exhibitors to conduct business here with buyers from across Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, as well as with other U.S. companies.

German trade fairs, in general, attract impressive numbers of visitors and exhibitors. This reality confirms the conviction that there is no other venue where an American company can get so much product exposure for its marketing dollar. Trade fairs also provide a U.S. company interested in entering Germany with the opportunity to research its market and the potential of its product properly before making a business decision.


In addition to exhibiting at major German trade fairs, advertising plays a central role in most companies’ broad-based marketing programs. Regulation of advertising in Germany is a mix between basic rules and voluntary guidelines developed by the major industry associations. The “Law Against Unfair Competition” established legal rules at the beginning of the 20th Century. Although it has been modified over time, this law continues to be valid today. The law allows suits to be brought if advertising "violates accepted mores."

Many advertising practices that are common in the United States, such as offering premiums, are not allowed in Germany. Any planned advertising campaigns should be discussed with a potential business partner or an advertising agency in Germany. The German association of advertising agencies’ website is:

There are numerous technical or specialized periodicals that deal with all aspects of technology and doing business in Germany. In addition, Germany has a well-developed array of newspapers and magazines which offer the opportunity to gather information and advertise products and services.

EU Regulations

General Legislation

Laws against misleading advertisements differ widely between member states within the EU. To respond to this imperfection in the internal market, the Commission adopted a directive, in force since October 1986, to establish minimum and objective criteria regarding truth in advertising. The Directive was amended in October 1997 to include comparative advertising. Under the Directive, misleading advertising is defined as any "advertising which in any way, including its presentation, deceives or is likely to deceive the persons to whom it is addressed or whom it reaches and which, by reason of its deceptive nature, is likely to affect their economic behavior or which for those reasons, injures or is likely to injure a competitor." Member states can authorize even more extensive protection under their national laws.

Comparative advertising, subject to certain conditions, is defined as "advertising which explicitly or by implication identifies a competitor or goods or services by a competitor." Member States can, and in some cases have, restricted misleading or comparative advertising.

The EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive lays down legislation on broadcasting activities allowed within the EU. Since 2009, the rules allowing for U.S.-style product placement on television and the three-hour/day maximum of advertising have been lifted. However, a 12-minute/hour maximum remains. Child programming is subject to a code of conduct that includes a limit of junk food advertising to children. Following the adoption of the 1999 Council Directive on the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees, product specifications, as laid down in advertising, are considered as legally binding on the seller. This Directive has incorporated into the Consumer Rights Directive mentioned above. For more information on sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees, see the legal warranties and after sales service section below.

The EU adopted Directive 2005/29/EC concerning fair business practices in a further attempt to tighten consumer protection rules. These rules outlaw several aggressive or deceptive marketing practices such as pyramid schemes, "liquidation sales" when a shop is not closing down, and artificially high prices as the basis for discounts in addition to other potentially misleading advertising practices. Certain rules on advertising to children are also set out.

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The advertising of medicinal products for human use is regulated by Council Directive 2001/83/EC as amended by Directive 2004/27/EC. Generally speaking, the advertising of medicinal products is forbidden if market authorization has not yet been granted or if the product in question is a prescription drug. Mentioning therapeutic indications where self-medication is not suitable is not permitted, nor is the distribution of free samples to the general public. The text of the advertisement should be compatible with the characteristics listed on the product label and should encourage rational use of the product. The advertising of medicinal products destined for professionals should contain essential characteristics of the product as well as its classification. Inducements to prescribe or supply a particular medicinal product are prohibited and the supply of free samples is restricted.

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Nutrition & Health Claims

On July 1, 2007, regulation 1924/2006 set into force EU-wide conditions for the use of nutrition claims such as “low fat” or “high in vitamin C” and health claims such as “helps lower cholesterol.” The regulation applies to any food or drink product produced for human consumption that is marketed in the EU. Only foods that fit a certain nutrient profile (below certain salt, sugar and/or fat levels) are allowed to carry claims. Nutrition and health claims are only allowed on food labels if they are included in one of the EU’s positive lists. Food products carrying claims must comply with the provisions of nutritional labeling Directive 90/496/EC and its amended version Directive 1169/2011.

In December 2012, a list of approved functional health claims went into effect. The list includes generic claims for substances other than botanicals, which will be evaluated at a later date. Disease risk reduction claims and claims referring to the health and development of children require an authorization on a case-by-case basis, following the submission of a scientific dossier to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Health claims based on new scientific data will have to be submitted to EFSA for evaluation but a simplified authorization procedure has been established.

The development of nutrient profiles, originally scheduled for January 2009, has been delayed. Nutrition claims can fail one criterion, i.e. if only one nutrient (salt, sugar or fat) exceeds the limit of the profile, a claim can still be made provided the high level of that particular nutrient is clearly marked on the label. For example, a yogurt can make a low-fat claim even if it has high sugar content but only if the label clearly states “high sugar content.” A European Union Register of nutrition claims has been established and is updated regularly. Health claims cannot fail any criteria. Detailed information on the EU’s Nutrition and Health Claims policy can be found on the USEU/FAS website at:

and in the USDA Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards EU 28 2014

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Food Information to Consumers

In 2011, the EU adopted a new regulation on the provision of food information to consumers (1169/2011). The new EU labeling requirements apply from December 13, 2014 except for the mandatory nutrition declaration which will apply from December 13, 2016.

Detailed information on the EU’s new food labeling rules can be found on the USEU/FAS website at

and in the USDA Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards EU 28 2014

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Food Supplements: Directive 2002/46/EC harmonizes the rules on labeling of food supplements and introduces specific rules on vitamins and minerals in food supplements. Ingredients other than vitamins and minerals are still regulated by member states.

Regulation 1925/2006, applicable as of July 1, 2007, harmonizes rules on the addition of vitamins and minerals to foods. The regulation lists the vitamins and minerals that may be added to foods. This list is updated most recently revised in 2014. A positive list of substances other than vitamins and minerals has not been established yet, although it is being developed. Until then, member state laws will govern the use of these substances.

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The EU Tobacco Advertising Directive bans tobacco advertising in printed media, radio, and internet as well as the sponsorship of cross-border events or activities. Advertising in cinemas and on billboards or merchandising is allowed, though these are banned in many member states. Tobacco advertising on television has been banned in the EU since the early 1990s and is governed by the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. A revised Tobacco Products Directive has been adopted and must now be transposed into national legislation by member states by 2016. The new legislation will include bigger, double-sided health pictorial warnings on cigarette packages and the possibility for plain packaging along with health warnings, tracking systems.

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Germany has become more price-conscious, especially in consumer goods areas. Consequently, price is increasing in importance as a competitive factor, but quality, timely delivery and service remain equally important, especially in B2B relations.

Sales Service/Customer Support


The German commercial customer expects to be able to pick up the telephone, talk to his or her dealer and have replacement parts or service work immediately available. American exporters should avoid appointing distributors with impossibly large geographic areas, without firm commitments regarding parts inventories or service capabilities, and without agreements on dealer mark-ups.

EU Legislation

Conscious of the discrepancies among member states in product labeling, language use, legal guarantee and liability, the redress of which inevitably frustrates consumers in cross-border shopping, EU institutions have launched a number of initiatives aimed at harmonizing national legislation. Suppliers within and outside the EU should be aware of existing and upcoming legislation affecting sales, service and customer support.

Product Liability

Under the 1985 EU Directive on Liability of Defective Products, amended in 1999, the producer is liable for damage caused by a defect in his product. The victim must prove the existence of the defect and a causal link between defect and injury (bodily as well as material). A reduction of liability of the manufacturer is granted in cases of negligence on the part of the victim.

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Product Safety

The 1992 General Product Safety Directive introduces a general safety requirement at the EU level to ensure that manufacturers only place safe products on the market. It was revised in 2001 to include an obligation on the producer and distributor to notify the Commission in case of a problem with a given product, provisions for its recall, the creation of a European Product Safety Network, and a ban on exports of products to third countries that are not deemed safe in the EU. The legislation is still undergoing review.

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Legal Warranties and After-sales Service

Under the 1999 Directive on the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees, professional sellers are required to provide a minimum two-year warranty on all consumer goods sold to consumers (natural persons acting for purposes outside their trade, businesses or professions), as defined by the Directive. The remedies available to consumers in case of non-compliance are:

  • Repair of the good(s);
  • Replacement of the good(s);
  • A price reduction; or
  • Rescission of the sales contract.

Key link:

Other issues pertaining to consumers’ rights and protection, such as the New Approach Directives, CE marking, quality control and data protection are dealt with in Chapter 5 of this report.

Due Diligence

Product safety testing and certification is mandatory for the EU market. U.S. manufacturers and sellers of goods have to perform due diligence in accordance with mandatory EU legislation prior to exporting.

Companies interested in taking over German firms should always conduct their own due diligence before entering into business ventures. One of the Commercial Service Programs, the International Company Profile, has been designed to support due diligence processes. All major consulting companies offer due diligence services, and most large U.S. accounting or consulting firms have subsidiaries in Germany.

Local Professional Services

Business service providers active in Germany can be viewed on the website maintained by the Commercial Service at the U.S. Embassy in Germany:

Local service providers focusing on EU law, consulting, and business development can be viewed on the website maintained by the Commercial Service at the U.S. Mission to the European Union at:

Principle Business Associations

Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie e.V. (BDI)
(Federation of German Industries)

Deutscher Industrie und Handelskammertag (DIHK)
(Federation of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce)

Bundesverband Grosshandel, Aussenhandel, Dienstleistungen e.V. 
(Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Services)

Zentralverband Elektrotechnik- und Eletronikindustrie e.V. (ZVEI)
(German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association)

Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau e.V. (VDMA)
(German Association of Machinery and Plant Manufacturers)

Centralvereinigung Deutscher Wirtschaftsverbaende fuer Handelsvermittlung und Vertrieb (CDH)
(National Association of German Commercial Agencies and Distributors)

For industry-specific business associations, please visit our leading sectors section, which lists key contacts and resources by industry sector.

Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services

We are not aware of any limitations on manufacturing or service sectors that prohibit non-Germans from owning or selling these businesses in Germany.

Selling U.S. Products and Services Web Resources

EU websites:

Coordination of the laws of the member states relating to self-employed commercial agents (Council Directive 86/653/EEC):

Agreements of Minor importance which do not appreciably restrict Competition under Article 101(1) of the Treaty establishing the European Community:

Directive on Late Payment:

European Ombudsman:

EU’s General Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC):

Information on contracts for transferring data outside the EU:

EU Data Protection Homepage:

Consumer Rights Directive:

Distance Selling of Financial Services:

E-commerce Directive (2000/31/EC):

VAT on Electronic Service:

The Unfair Commercial Practices Directive:

Nutrition and health claims made on foods - Regulation 1924/2006:

Regulation on Food Information to Consumers: Regulation 1169/2011

EU-28 FAIRS EU Country Report on Food and Labeling requirements:
USDA Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards EU 28 2014

Guidance document on how companies can apply for health claim authorizations: Summary document from EFSA

Health & Nutrition Claims:


Product Liability:

Product Safety:

Legal Warranties and After-Sales Service:


Harmonization of certain aspects of Copyright and related rights in the Information Society –

Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC):

European Patent Office (EPO):

Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM):

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Madrid:

U.S. websites:

IPR Toolkit:

EU Public Procurement:

Country Contacts

Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology
Bundesministerium fuer Wirtschaft & Technologie

Germany Trade and Invest

Federal Ministry of Finance
Bundesministerium der Finanzen

Country Market Research Firms

It would exceed the scope of this guide to list even only the major market research or consultant companies. Most of these firms belong to one or both of the following associations and can be contacted through these:

Bundesverband Deutscher Unternehmensberater e.V. (BDU)
(Federal Association of German Consultants)

Arbeitskreis Deutscher Markt- und Sozialforschungsinstitute e.V. (ADM)
(Federation of German Market and Social Research Institutes)

Country Commercial Banks

There are numerous domestic and foreign banks represented in Germany; among the largest German institutions are:

Deutsche Bank AG

Commerzbank AG

Bayerische Hypo- und Vereinsbank AG

Deutsche Postbank AG

U.S. Embassy Trade Personnel

United States Embassy, Berlin
Commercial Service

U.S. Consulates:

Commercial Service

Commercial Service



Commercial Service

Washington-based Contacts

U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration

U.S. Department of State

USDA - Foreign Agricultural Service, Agricultural Export Services Division. The website has trade and production statistics, exporter assistance information, marketing information, trade policy news and links to the attaché reports.

U.S. Department of the Treasury

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Office of Europe and the Mediterranean

U.S.-based Multipliers

German Missions in the United States

CMA - German Agricultural Marketing Board, North American Office

German American Chamber of Commerce, Inc. (Headquarters)

Representative of German Industry and Trade

Other Contacts
 - U.S. Commercial Service Germany’s trade specialists can help you identify trade opportunities, find local trading partners, launch your company, and obtain market research reports.  - U.S. Government Export Portal  - As EU member states harmonize their regulations and increase their economic integration, a direct connection to the U.S. Commercial Service at the U.S. Mission to the European Union can be the key to success in the EU market.  - American Chamber of Commerce in Germany  – Association of American German Business Clubs e.V.  - American German Business Club Berlin  - The Foreign Agricultural Service website has trade and production statistics, exporter assistance information, marketing information, trade policy news and links to the attaché reports.

Agricultural Affairs Office
American Embassy/Berlin
Clayallee 170
14191 Berlin, Germany
Tel: [49][30] 8305-1150
Email:  - The Office of Agricultural Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the European Union has a very comprehensive website on EU food laws, import requirements, and duties and quotas. - provides statistical data on trade between the United States and Germany.  – The German Federal Bank provides information and key indicators on Germany’s economy.

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  Notice to Visitors!

  The link you have chosen will take you to a non-U.S. Government website.

  If the page does not appear in 5 seconds, please click this: outside web site is managed by the International Trade Administration and external links are covered by its website disclaimer statement.