A distance contract is a contract concluded between an entrepreneur and a consumer by means of distance communication. The means of distance communication include letters, catalogs, telephone calls, faxes, e-mails as well as radio and other media services. Distance contracts can be contracts involving the delivery of goods or the provision of a service. Services include financial services, i.e. banking services and services related to the granting of credit, insurance, retirement benefits for individuals, investments or payments.

In online trade, in contrast to stationary trade, a special right of revocation and return applies. Consumers, but also the trader, should therefore study their rights and obligations particularly carefully. Corresponding regulations were to be found in a separate law, the Distance Selling Act, until the modernization of the law of obligations. Since 2002, however, the legal regulations have been added to the German Civil Code (BGB).

Legal regulations for the distance selling contract

Legal regulations concerning distance selling contracts are anchored in the following paragraphs of the BGB:

  • 312b
  • 312c
  • 312d

Under §312b it is explained in detail what a distance contract is exactly and to which kind of contracts the paragraph does not apply. Paragraph §312c deals with the information of the consumer by the business. In summary, it states that the business must inform the consumer about the general terms and conditions via means of distance communication. For example, the general terms and conditions of business must be enclosed separately with the invoice, and paragraph 312d provides information on the right of revocation and return for distance selling contracts. For example, that the consumer, instead of the right of withdrawal, can be granted a right of return for the delivery of goods.

If a contract is concluded using means of distance communication, this means that the business owner and the consumer are not physically facing each other both when initiating a contract and when concluding the contract. Which party uses which means of distance communication can be decided flexibly. For example, the consumer can reply to an e-mail from the entrepreneur by fax. Or the entrepreneur and the consumer first discuss details over the phone and then the consumer buys the goods online. If an entrepreneur uses the means of distance communication, for example the Internet or a catalog, but only as an advertising platform and a contract is concluded with stationary trade, then there is no distance contract. This is also because the buyer and seller are facing each other and the receipt or the invoice is handed over personally when the purchase is made.

You can find more information under e-commerce.

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