Disputes and arbitration: new information requirements for self-employed persons

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From 1 February 2017, self-employed architects will have new information obligations towards clients who are deemed to be consumers, subject to certain conditions.

The background to this is the Consumer Dispute Settlement Act (VSBG), which is intended to promote the out-of-court settlement of disputes through recognised private consumer arbitration bodies or established official consumer arbitration bodies. The following obligations can affect self-employed architects:

  • Anyone who employed more than ten people on 31.12. of the previous year must state on his website and/or together with his General Terms and Conditions (GTC) whether and to what extent he is prepared to participate in dispute resolution proceedings before a consumer arbitration board (Section 36 (1) No. 1 VSBG).
  • Those who have already committed themselves in principle to participating in dispute resolution proceedings before a consumer arbitration board must refer consumers to the competent consumer arbitration board on their website and/or together with their GTC. (§ 36 para. 1 no. 2 VSBG).
  • Who could not settle a concrete dispute with a consumer, must inform the consumer in text form about a consumer arbitration board responsible for him. (§ 37 VSBG)

As a consumer arbitration board in the sense of the VSBG, in some federal states the arbitration boards of the chamber of architects can also be considered - ask your chamber. If this is the case, architects can refer to this without further ado. In all other federal states, architects should expressly refer their willingness to conciliate only to proceedings before the conciliation committee of the chamber, but not to the "consumer conciliation board" within the meaning of the VSBG. This is because it would then be a so-called "catch-all conciliation board" without the corresponding professional competence.

Irrespective of this, architects should always make any willingness to arbitrate subject to the proviso that their professional liability insurance does not object to this, and should contact their chamber for further details.

(Source: Summary of the legal advisor of the Federal Chamber of Architects Dr. Volker Schnepel with reference to the information of the respective state chambers of architects)

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