17 April 20246 minute read

New rules for car labelling – German Car Energy Consumption Labelling Ordinance amendment comes into force

The new German Car Energy Consumption Labelling Ordinance (Pkw-EnVKV) came into force on 23 February 2024. The regulation is based on the European Car Labelling Directive (1999/94/EC) and sets out which information vehicle manufacturers and dealers have to provide when offering and advertising new passenger cars.

The amendment has been expected for years and is long overdue. The most important change is the switch from the NEDC test procedure to the more realistic WLTP. The WLTP has been in force for newly registered cars since 1 September 2018. Since January 2020, the values have no longer been additionally converted to NEDC values.

Aside from that necessary change, the Ministry wants to further improve information for consumers and increase acceptance of the “car label”, so consumers can make more efficient and sustainable choices. For companies, the new requirements are intended to create incentives to develop more efficient vehicles and bring them onto the market. In this article, we look at the key requirements and discuss which changes companies need to adapt to.


Who do the requirements apply to?

The regulation is aimed at manufacturers and dealers of new passenger cars. The new regulation clarifies that a car is new if it’s type-approved and has not been registered for use on public roads for more than eight months. A vehicle is also new if it’s been driven less than 1,000 km.

The new regulation also states that not only offers to purchase and lease vehicles are covered, but also long-term rentals with a minimum term of one month.


What obligations apply to notices and notices at the point of sale?

If a manufacturer or dealer exhibits a new vehicle or offers one for sale, lease or long-term rental, they have to ensure the “car label” is affixed to the car or positioned near it. They also have to display a notice showing the relevant information for all cars displayed or offered at the point of sale. And they have to create guidelines on energy consumption and CO2 emissions and make them available to customers, eg on the internet.

There are separate templates for the car label for each type of vehicle (diesel and petrol, natural gas, electric, hybrid, fuel cell). The car label includes information about the fuel consumption and the CO2 emissions. For electric and hybrid vehicles, the power consumption and electric range of the new passenger car must also be stated.

Information about the vehicle’s CO2 class must be provided. The new regulation introduces a fundamental change: from now on, the CO2 class will be calculated based on the absolute CO2 emission values. This new classification replaces the relative CO2 efficiency classes used in the past, which took the weight of the vehicle into account.

In a new addition, the energy costs for an annual mileage of 15,000 km, the amount of vehicle tax and the possible CO2 costs over the next ten years must also be stated.


What must be stated in advertising?

When advertising new vehicles, information on the fuel/energy consumption, the CO2 emissions and the CO2 class must be provided. The previous possibility to indicate the total range of all models instead of the individual values when advertising multiple vehicles has been removed. Like before, the information must be clearly legible, no less prominent than the main part of the advertising message and easy to understand even at a cursory glance. Many court disputes centre around whether these requirements have been met.

This information must not only be stated in print advertising – the new regulation makes it clear that online advertising is also covered, including social media and online video platforms like YouTube. Only radio or television advertising is excluded. When online advertising features claims about the engine of a car (eg engine power, cubic capacity or acceleration) the mandatory information must be provided at least at the same time and the CO2 class must be indicated in at least the same font size.

For “digital points of sale” where the car is presented for the purpose of distance selling, eg in car configurators, the entire car label must be provided. The customer must be made aware of the information at the latest when they’ve completed the configuration of a specific vehicle.


What are the legal consequences for violations?

Businesses that don’t comply with the labelling requirements risk considerable sanctions. The information required by the Ordinance is considered essential for consumers. If it’s withheld or not provided correctly, this constitutes a violation of competition law. Illegal conduct may result in claims for injunction, claims for damages and claims for disgorgement of profits. In particular, the business is exposed to the risk of warnings from consumer and competition associations. Enforcement can take the form of out-of-court warnings, injunctions or court proceedings.

On top of that, violating the regulations can result in a fine of up to EUR50,000 from the responsible market surveillance authorities.


When do the new requirements apply?

The Ordinance gives manufacturers and dealers a transitional period so they can adapt to the new requirements. Notices on cars and displays at the point of sale must comply with the new rules from 1 May 2024. The same date applies to advertising on the internet. For print advertising, the new rules will take effect from 1 August 2024. Online archives or websites with advertising material that’s no longer actively used do not have to be updated if the advertising was published on the internet before 23 February 2024. This means that outdated posts on social media don’t have to be adapted to comply with the new rules.


What happens now?

The European Commission has already announced that it intends to review and, if necessary, revise the Car Labelling Directive by the end of 2024. With this in mind, the German Federal Ministry also intends to further develop the Ordinance. It intends to examine whether the requirements will also be extended to used vehicles. The Ministry announced it will publish a report by the first quarter of 2024 at the latest and propose new amendments. Manufacturers and dealers should keep a close eye on further developments.

If you have any questions about the German Car Energy Consumption Labelling Ordinance, get in touch with our team.

We advise clients from the automotive sector on all stages of the value chain, from procurement and manufacturing to sales and distribution, including the development and review of advertising campaigns. We can advise you on the effects of the new regulation on your business model relating to advertising, sales and distribution. We can also help with judicial and extrajudicial defence against accusations by competitors, consumer protection associations or authorities.