Knowledge Platform

Language Requirements

Language requirements for websites offering commercial services to consumers in Europe are not regulated by EU legislation (except in relation to food safety, dangerous goods etc.).

In order to ensure that the content of any marketing material is clear and unambiguous however, consideration should be given to advertising in the local language of the country where the advertisement is targeted. 

If a website was to be made available in a number of European languages, it must ensure that the same language is used throughout the selling process – which includes advertising and their standard terms and conditions [24].

The commercial benefits of potentially broadening the scope of sales through a multi-lingual website should be balanced against the cost of translating (and the associated risks regarding interpretation) and/or producing the website in different languages from source.

The level of consumer protection varies between Member States therefore the interpretation of what is considered to be ‘plain intelligible language’ (or the equivalent standard) will also vary between Member States. Generally speaking, ambiguous contract terms will always be construed against the party putting it forward – in this context the supplier rather than the consumer.

Whilst there may not be a language requirement enshrined in national law, it will be more straightforward for a national court (or administrative body) to assess the fairness/ambiguity (or the equivalent standard) of a contractual term, if it is available in the Member States’ national language – particularly given the difficulties that can arise out of direct translation, rather than the contractual terms having been drawn up in a particular language in the first instance. 

[24] See Article 7(2) and Annex I (8) of the Unfair Practices Directive and Annex (i) of the Unfair Terms Directive.