The WhatsApp logo.
Photograph by Chris Ratcliffe—Bloomberg via Getty Images
By David Meyer
May 17, 2016

Facebook’s (fb) WhatsApp has lost its appeal against a German court ruling that said it has to provide its terms and privacy policy in German for customers in that country.

WhatsApp got sued a couple years back by the Federation of German Consumer Associations (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband, or VZBV), which claimed it was breaking consumer protection rules by insisting Germans must agree to English-language terms of service in order to use the messaging app.

The Berlin regional court found in VZBV’s favor in 2014, and WhatsApp appealed. On Monday, in a preliminary ruling, the Berlin court of appeal upheld the earlier judgement.

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If the ruling is finalized and WhatsApp does not translate its terms of service and privacy policy into German, it faces an administrative fine of up to €250,000 ($283,000).

“Companies’ conditions are often long and difficult to understand for consumers,” VZBV CEO Klaus Müller said in a statement. “That the millions of German WhatsApp users don’t have to also read them in a foreign language, is an important signal to other foreign firms.”

The appellate court said that while many Germans can understand everyday English, few speak the English legalese in which terms of service are written. Therefore, it said, it was unreasonable to expect them to do so, and WhatsApp’s terms of service and privacy policy are essentially ineffective.

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The court also said WhatsApp was violating the German Telemedia Act (the country’s main law covering digital services) by not giving consumers the possibility of directly contacting a company representative in the country.

It remains to be seen whether WhatsApp will be able to appeal again—the case would have to go up to Germany’s federal supreme court, as it cannot appeal in Berlin again.

The company had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

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