§ 3a UWG and its scope
Section 3a UWG is a german regulation that is known only to a few. It comes from the german law against unfair competition or UWG for short. The language of legal norms may often come across as old-fashioned and the concept of honesty is an example of the tenacity with which the legislature adheres to the established legal German. In the context of the UWG, fairness means nothing more than fairness and the UWG can also be understood as a law against unfair (market-based) competition.
Both the target group and the scope of the law, especially § 3a UWG, are enormous. The basic idea of the UWG is that wherever companies are in competition, i.e. in competition with one another, certain rules must be adhered to. This basically affects every entrepreneur, manufacturer, supplier or, in short and in the language of the law: every market participant.
The content of § 3a UWG
In addition to an extensive catalog that prohibits and sanctions very specific actions, the UWG has a special provision that expands its scope enormously: Section 3a UWG. The standard with the title “Breach of the law” is just one sentence long, but, in simple terms, allows a reference to all legal regulations that can have at least a secondary influence on competition in the market.
What does that mean in concrete terms? Put simply, according to Section 3a UWG, almost every regulation that prescribes a certain market behavior can have an impact on competition. This becomes clear, for example, with a look at the Packaging Act. If, for example, a company does not license its packaging in the dual system, it saves costs that can be invested elsewhere. The same applies to the company that simply disposes of its electrical devices in the household waste instead of properly disposing of them in accordance with the provisions of the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act.
Because of these cost savings, it is not only the environment that suffers. The market participant also gains a competitive advantage over his competitors who adhere to the rules. Because what he saves in administration and logistics, he can use, for example, to keep the price of his product particularly low or he can invest more money in advertising.
What is special about § 3a UWG? I have to stick to the rules anyway
The purpose of the UWG and in particular of Section 3a UWG is, among other things, to ensure the same market conditions for the individual competitors. The Packaging Act and the Battery Act, on the other hand, have included environmental protection as a primary goal in their preamble. If companies now violate environmental regulations, it is the task of the state to sanction this behavior. The situation is less straightforward when it comes to the question of whether other competitors are also affected by the behavior. With § 3a UWG, the legislator therefore gives market participants a tool to be able to take action against the respective misconduct themselves.
If a company does not properly dispose of its electronic waste, it primarily affects the environment. However, since the latter cannot go to court itself if its interests are impaired, the state takes on this with the help of its administrative authorities. If the behavior affects the interests of a competitor or other market participant at the same time, it is up to them to enforce their interests. Section 3a UWG creates the legal basis for this.
The § 3a UWG in practice
In practice, § 3a UWG has the following meaning: If you know, for example, that a competitor is bringing unlicensed packaging into circulation in order to save costs, you do not have to be content with notifying the competent authority of the wrongdoing. Since the legislature assumes that your interest as a competitor is also affected due to the advantageous competitive position, the UWG also gives you your own claim with Section 3a, which you can submit to court yourself.
As a result, on the basis of Section 3a UWG, you could independently enforce that the other party adheres to the rules without having to wait for the authorities to act. In individual cases, claims for damages and contractual penalties for repeated violations can be enforced.
The requirements of § 3a UWG at a glance
In summary, a very handy checklist can be drawn up for the individual requirements of Section 3a UWG:
- Is a market participant violating a legal norm?
- Does this legal norm represent a regulation of market behavior within the meaning of § 3a UWG?
If both questions can be answered with “yes”, there is a breach of law within the meaning of § 3a UWG. If you suspect that a competitor fulfills the requirements mentioned, it may make sense to seek legal advice.
The § 3a UWG – conclusion
Overall, the UWG thus establishes a provision with Section 3a, the purpose of which is in particular to enforce comprehensive compliance with mercantile rules of conduct. Its broad scope of application can have a high practical relevance in individual cases and the function of § 3a UWG should be known to every well-established company at least in its basics.
So that you don’t get embarrassed about violating the multitude of environmental compliance regulations, we at Deutsche Recycling are at your side with extensive advice. So you are legally on the safe side. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us using our contact form.