On January 1, 2007, the German Act regarding Electronic Commercial Registers and Company Registers (EHUG), that inter alia partly transposes EU directives 2003/58/EC and 2004/109/EC into German law, went into effect. The main purpose of the EHUG is to set forth rules for a new electronic commercial register and a new company register, in which a variety of company data collected so far in various registers of various authorities will be consolidated and made available to the public.
In one of the less-noted parts of the EHUG, the legislator has also amended the provisions in inter alia the Commercial Code, the Stock Corporation Act and the Limited Liability Companies Act (Section 37a HGB, Section 80 AktG, Section 35a GmbHG) that set forth what kind of information a company or a branch registered in Germany has to state on its business letters. For a GmbH, for example, such required information is the legal form, place of business, name of the court responsible for the commercial register, commercial register number of the company, full names of the managing directors and, if applicable, full name of the chairman of the supervisory board.
Even before January 1, 2007, these provisions regarding the required information for business letters were construed as not applying only to business letters as such but also to all similar communications of the company regardless of physical form, e.g., emails and telefaxes. The EHUG has now explicitly confirmed this interpretation. The respective provisions of the Commercial Code, the Stock Corporation Act and the Limited Liability Companies Act have been amended and now set forth explicitly that the requirements apply to "business letters regardless in what form".
Although the new wording only confirms what has been the law all the time, the often-neglected requirement has now come into the focus of the authorities and of competitors. Companies that do not print the required information risk a fine of up to €5,000 from the commercial register, and they risk being warned (Abmahnung) by competitors under the Act against Unfair Competition (UWG), which also entails costs.