In the competitive business with solar systems, providers resort to questionable tricks. The Berlin provider Enpal has now attracted attention with a fake comparison portal – legally this is tricky.
The battle for market shares in the rapidly growing business with solar systems is being fought with a heavy hand – and tempts some providers to use questionable tricks. The billion-dollar Berlin startup Enpal has now attracted attention with a fake comparison portal for solar systems.
As the tech portal Trendingtopics.eu reports, interested customers have often come across the “deutsche-solarberatung.net” portal through web research in recent months. There, visitors were suggested to be able to carry out a “solar power comparison” among the “best providers in the region”. Among other things, the portal asked about the federal state in which the visitor currently resides. The portal looked serious: in addition to a logo in the style of a federal authority, the “Deutsche Solarberatung” advertised with 30,000 customers from specialist partners who are known from well-known media such as FAZ, Spiegel Online, ARD or Handelsblatt.
More than half a million views
However, there was no independent provider behind the comparison portal – but the solar startup Enpal itself. According to Trendingtopics, this could only be determined by looking at the imprint of the site. Enpal now has to put up with the question of whether visitors were only recommended the products of the Berlin startup. The portal is no longer accessible. However, screenshots of the site can still be viewed via the archive portal Wayback Machine.
At the request of Gründerszene, Enpal confirmed that it operated the comparison portal. It was a “temporary marketing project” that had “no strategic relevance” for the company, as a spokeswoman said. However, that is an understatement. According to data from the Similarweb analysis tool, the “deutsche-solarberatung.net” website generated more than half a million hits in the past three months.
Such comparison sites are a common method for many startups to collect so-called leads quickly and inexpensively. A lead is a contact address for a potential new customer. Search engine-optimized comparison sites are particularly attractive when there is tough competition with other providers. Especially since the prices for paid ads on Google, for example, are likely to have risen sharply in recent months, especially in the highly competitive business with solar systems.
“One can well imagine that this is misleading and illegal”
Enpal emphasizes that it has meanwhile taken the site offline. “We are also not working on setting up a comparison portal and do not understand or describe ourselves as a German solar consultancy,” says the company. Conversely, legal risks might have arisen.
Because: “The law against unfair competition (UWG) prohibits misleading advertising,” says lawyer Martin Soppe when asked by the start-up scene. The competition lawyer from the law firm Osborne Clarke refers to a catalog of circumstances in the UWG about which untrue statements are inadmissible. This includes, for example, untrue information about the characteristics of a service, the results to be expected from it or the identity of the entrepreneur behind it.
“One can well imagine that the claim that one operates a (neutral) comparison portal while one actually operates a direct sales portal falls under this standard and is therefore misleading and illegal,” concludes Soppe. This applies all the more if essential information is concealed. “For example, the fact that only one provider – namely you – is listed in the ‘comparison portal’”. In certain cases, misleading advertising is even punishable. From a distance, however, he could not conclusively assess whether this was the case with Enpal. When asked, Enpal stated that it had only recommended its own products.
A similar case recently ended up in court
A similar case in the startup scene was just a few weeks ago. In mid-February, the Cologne district court sentenced the multi-billion dollar tutoring startup Gostudent because the judges believed it had made “misleading” and “non-transparent information” and thus “unjustifiably disadvantaged” its competitors. Among other things, Gostudent had initiated a comparison portal for tutors, which at first glance seemed independent, but only placed the staff of the startup. The founder of another tutoring portal had previously sued against the company’s conduct.
The young providers of solar systems are also fighting each other with tough bandages. In addition to the two Berlin providers Zolar and Enpal, these include the Hamburg startup 1Komma5° and Solarhelden from Munich. The latter quarreled with Enpal over Google reviews. 1Komma5° founder Philipp Schröder in turn accused Enpal boss Mario Kohle at the end of last year of doing improper marketing. Against 1Komma5° a lawsuit should also run.