A German lawsuit accusing Tesla of misleading consumers with advertising slogans has reached a final verdict. The three-year lawsuit ended in Tesla's favor - Tesla can use advertising slogans such as Autopilot in Germany without restriction, the Higher Regional Court in Munich disclosed to the media on 14 local time.
In 2019, the German non-profit organization Frankfurt Anti-Unfair Competition Center filed a lawsuit against Tesla, alleging that the advertising slogans used by Tesla in Germany to promote the Automated Assisted Driving (AP) system and Full Self-Driving capability (FSD) did not match reality.
The complaint mentions that at the time Tesla wrote on its official website that by the end of 2019, Tesla cars will be able to recognize traffic lights and stop signs and start and brake accordingly, as well as drive themselves in urban areas.
The Frankfurt Center for the Prevention of Unfair Competition points out that such publicity could lead consumers to believe that Tesla cars could be self-driving by the end of the year. However, this is not possible because some of the features advertised by Tesla are not yet legally permitted in Germany, and then consumers will not receive a Tesla car with autonomous driving in urban areas in time. The agency accused "Tesla of promising consumers much more than it actually did.
In response, the First District Court of Munich ruled in July 2020 that full autopilot is currently neither legal nor technically possible, and that Tesla is therefore prohibited from making false advertising promises, i.e., from using "misleading" terms such as self-driving assistance systems and full autopilot capability in its advertising in Germany. The German law requires that the advertisements must not make false promises.
As required by German law, an asterisk and explanatory text in an exaggerated advertising phrase can be used reasonably. However, after the ruling, Tesla did not immediately change the advertising slogan, but appealed. The case was accepted by the Munich High Court. Although the ruling was made back in October 2021, the outcome of the ruling has not been disclosed to the public. It was only recently that the verdict was confirmed.
It is understood that the Munich High Court rejected the allegations of the Frankfurt Centre for Unfair Competition, ruling that Tesla could advertise autonomous driving in Germany because "any consumer who visits Tesla's website and intends to buy an electric car has been properly informed that the car they are buying is not fully autonomous".
TOPCARS found that this is not the first time Tesla has been told to stop using self-driving-related terms in its advertising in Germany, nor is it the first time it has faced similar allegations.
In 2016, the German government asked Tesla to stop using the term "automatic assisted driving", fearing that it might have the effect of suggesting that its vehicles are fully self-driving.
Recently, the California Department of Motor Vehicles filed two charges with the state's Office of Administrative Hearings, arguing that Tesla's advertising of its Automated Assisted Driving and Full Autopilot capabilities was "untrue or misleading. Because Tesla is not yet capable of fully autonomous driving, either at the time these advertising slogans were released or now.
Last August, U.S. Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal also asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla's advertising of its Automated Assisted Driving and Full Autopilot capabilities, claiming that Tesla "overstates the capabilities of its vehicles," which could "pose a threat to drivers and other road users.