Adblock Plus Wins Latest German Legal Challenge

David Murphy

Ad-block-Plus.pngAd blocking firm Adblock Plus is celebrating after the regional court of appeals in Cologne, Germany, rejected an appeal by publisher Axel Springer against its decision a few months back to rule that ad blocking was legal.

The company’s celebrations have been slightly dampened, however, by the fact that Axel Springer did score a minor victory during the course of the appeal. As an Adblock Plus blog post explains it:

“This time, the court found an obscure, newly passed statute in German unfair competition law. Introduced in December 2015, this statute, Paragraph 4a UWG, is based on a European directive that was intended to protect consumers against aggressive business tactics. But Germany rewrote the law, taking it farther than Europe intended, and making it apply not just between businesses and consumers but also between businesses and other businesses.

“Axel Springer’s attorneys used this sub-clause to justify their secondary request to the court: ‘to ban an ad blocker if that ad blocker allows ads that meet certain criteria and requires that Springer needs to pay a fee for it.’”

The upshot of the ruling is that Adblock Plus needs to change how it offers whitelisting to Axel Springer in Germany. Axel Springer would probably qualify as a “large entity” according to Adblock Plus’s rules, and so would pay to be whitelisted. Because of the ruling, however Adblock Plus is required to treat Axel Springer as a special case.

Again, as the blog post explains it: “Simply put, we can’t accept compensation for the services we might render to them. So, if Springer brings us ads to whitelist, and these fit our criteria, we’ll whitelist them for free just like the other 90 per cent of the companies on our whitelist.”

Not too surprisingly, Adblock Plus is not keen on giving anything to Axel Springer, and is appealing the relevant part of the decision with Germany’s supreme court, the Bundesgerichtshof.