Mail order

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The mail (even mail order or distance selling ) is a type of retailing where the products at least by Internet , historically and sporadically today by Product catalog , brochure , Internet, television advertising or sales representatives are offered.


Mail order is a form of distribution in trade that does not have direct customer contacts ( floor trade ) like retail or wholesale . Rather, the business relationship takes place via product catalogs or the Internet. Therefore, neither the direct handover of the goods to the buyer nor the direct payment of the purchase price to the seller is possible. The goods must be shipped, payment is made by cashless payment transactions. This has consequences for the transfer of risk , the transport and payment risk .


Aristide Boucicaut , the founder of Le Bon Marché , presented the first mail order catalog to the French public in 1856. At the beginning mainly the metropolitan area of ​​Paris was supplied, later all of France. The American mail order industry began in 1872 with the world's first universal mail order company, Aaron Montgomery Ward (1843–1913), who presented the first mail order catalog for his mail order business in Chicago that same year. It consisted of a single sheet of paper with the offers and shipping terms. Instead of visiting his customers - mostly farmers in the vastness of the American West - personally at regular intervals, taking their orders and then delivering the goods on his next visit, he gave them a list of goods. Timothy Eaton began delivery service in 1877 and published his first Trans-Canadian catalog in 1884. Sears Roebuck published the first catalog in 1893, and from 1897 Sears Roebuck sent out catalogs of 750 pages with 6000 articles. Eaton's catalog in 1904 had a circulation of 1.3 million copies.

Department store ISRAEL Berlin, mail order catalog p. 24 from 1932

In the German-speaking area, the men's outfitter Mey & Edlich , which is still active as a mail-order business today, was founded in 1870 and sent the first illustrated catalogs from 1886. The then Saxon purveyor to the court, Mey & Edlich, is considered to be the founder of the German and probably also the worldwide mail order business. He was followed by August Stukenbrok Einbeck (ASTE), who ran a bicycle mail order business in Einbeck from 1888.

The mail order business, which was dependent on catalogs, flourished in the Weimar Republic , as many mail order companies that still exist today were founded: Versandhaus Klingel (1923), Baur Versand (1925), Friedrich Wenz (1926), Quelle (October 1927), Schöpflin (1929) , Bader Versand (1929) and Vorwerk (1930) or Otto-Versand (August 1949), Neckermann sent the first catalogs in December 1938. In England , John Moores published the first mail order catalog for his retail company Littlewoods in May 1932 .

After the Second World War, Neckermann began mailing catalogs again in March 1950, followed by Otto mailing in September 1950 with 14 pages and an edition of 300 copies; Schwab followed in 1955. Mail order was introduced in the GDR on May 1, 1956 by the state trade organization ( Centrum-Versandhandel , Leipzig; Konsument Versandhaus , Karl-Marx-Stadt). The generally poor supply situation in the GDR also affected the mail order business; up to half of the goods advertised in the catalogs were not available. Because of the increasing resentment of the citizens about this, officially because of the nationwide "better supply situation", mail order business in the GDR was stopped on August 13, 1976. Only condoms and seeds could still be ordered by post. West German mail order catalogs gained great popularity in the GDR at that time. Due to the economic situation in the 1970s, several mail order companies were bought up. The Quelle Group bought Schöpflin as early as 1964, Otto-Versand took over Heine-Versand (1974) and Schwab-Versand (1976), Karstadt acquired Neckermann-Versand in 1976. In addition, the large mail order companies began to expand their logistics centers and their own transport systems in order to minimize the transport and postal charges to the Deutsche Bundespost (see: Hermes Europe ).

The Neckermann catalog reached its peak after reunification in 1990 with 1000 pages and a circulation of 10 million copies. With the spread of mail order companies and auction platforms on the Internet (including 1994, eBay 1995), the expansion of the branch network of larger specialist stores ( Obi , Praktiker , Media-Markt , Saturn ) and the development of promotional goods in discount stores, the share of conventional mail-order business in the total shrank Retail sales, so that many mail order companies also had to distinguish themselves as Internet providers. Not all of them were successful, Quelle-Versand went bankrupt in 2009 and Neckermann in 2012 . The online mail order business is also becoming more and more important. According to a study by the Bundesverband des Deutschen Versandhandels eV, the number of German Internet buyers rose to 32.5 million in 2009. Compared to the previous year, this is an increase of 1.1 million users of the online mail order business.

In 2016 Amazon, Otto , Zalando , Notebooksbilliger and Bonprix were among the top five online shops in terms of turnover. Otto Versand published its last catalog in November 2018. The reason was online trading , which had made catalogs less important since the 2000s.

Legal issues

The legal basis for mail order business in Germany is distance selling law .


According to § 1 JuSchG , mail order business is any paid business that is carried out by way of ordering and sending goods by post or electronic dispatch without personal contact between the supplier and the customer. The desired products can be ordered orally (e.g. by telephone or sales representative ), in writing (e.g. by letter or fax ) or on the Internet . The subsequent payment can be made by credit card , cash on delivery , prepayment , direct debit or on account . In the mail order business, there is a right of withdrawal from the purchase contract to protect the consumer , which is often exercised through a right of return , u. a. regulated in the EU Distance Selling Directive .

Dispatch of the goods

In the mail order business ( distance selling and online trading ), buyers and sellers do not face each other, so that the goods have to be transported and there is at least one working day between the order and delivery . The buyer, who could also pick up the goods from the seller ( Section 269 (1) BGB ), would like to get the goods more conveniently and agree on their dispatch with the seller. The direct handover, which is not possible, is replaced by the dispatch of the goods, which the mail order company takes over or - as a rule - has a transport company carry out. Thus, the buyer has the disadvantage that it - unlike the presence purchase - not previously seen the goods and can inspect, but only after their delivery , so usually after the payment of the purchase price . There is also the risk for the buyer that he has paid the purchase price but the goods are not delivered or not delivered free of defects.

The seller may in mail order purchase instruct third parties to transport the goods, which are transport companies such as postal , parcel services , carriers (by rail , ship or aircraft ) or freight forwarders . Although the freight forwarder in the classical sense organized by definition, only the transport§ 453 et seq. HGB ), but is in fact often in its own name and for the carrier and then enters himself as executive transports on ( § 458 HGB).

According to Section 474 (2) of the German Civil Code (BGB), the transfer of risk according to Section 447 of the German Civil Code (BGB) only takes place in the case of purchase contracts in which either no consumer is involved on either the buyer or seller side or a consumer is only on the seller side, but not on the buyer side. This excludes the purchase of consumer goods where there is an entrepreneur as a seller and a consumer as a buyer. When buying consumer goods, the delivery of the goods to the transport company does not lead to the risk of the price being transferred to the buyer. Rather, the transfer of risk only occurs after the transport with the delivery of the goods to the buyer ( § 446 BGB). When buying consumer goods, the goods travel at the risk of the seller. However, the buyer left the transporter a authorization to deposit that goes Transport hazard also without physical delivery to the buyer.

Payment for the goods

The buyer pays by credit cards or other payment cards . According to the case law of the Federal Court of Justice , the same principles apply to telephone / mail order / e-commerce procedures as to floor trading , where the credit card holder presents his credit card to the authorized dealer. The cash substitute function, which the credit card has not only in face-to-face business with presentation of the card, but also in the mail order process, is of decisive importance. Main feature of the mail-order services distance selling transaction is the absence of physical presentation of the credit card, so that the examination of the signature by the dealer ( english file signature on , "Signature is present") does not occur. With this, the authorized dealer confirms that he has the signature of the cardholder, for example on a written order, in the presence procedure. Instead, the buyer simply transmits his card details to the retailer by telephone , email or the Internet , from which the mail order company creates a service receipt. The merchant may only use the credit card data for the creation of a service receipt if the merchant conditions with the card company provide for this. These general terms and conditions usually stipulate that the authorized dealer only receives a claim against the card company based on an abstract promise of debt if he has actually received an order and therefore a preliminary inquiry has been made to the card company. In order to avoid the risk of abuse inherent in the system, the merchant must check before payment whether the purchaser and cardholder are identical and check the card security number on the back of the card. In these cases, the card company must create the prerequisites for this identity check beforehand. The case law assumes that the distribution of the risk of abuse in mail order business cannot be assessed differently than in face-to-face sales, so that chargeback clauses are not permitted. This is based on the assumption that there is also a cash substitute function in distance transactions, which prevents the risk of abuse from being passed on to the authorized dealer regardless of fault .

The card company's obligation to pay only arises if the merchant uses the POS terminal to create proper service receipts. This regulation does not disadvantage the merchant inappropriately, but rather prescribes appropriate documentation of the transactions carried out, which is required in particular to deal with any complaints from a cardholder. The missing note "signature on file" does not affect the payment obligation of the card company in the mail order procedure. This information is basically a necessary prerequisite for the credit card company's payment obligation in the face-to-face procedure, but cannot and must not be noted on the service receipts in the mail order procedure. The card company is obliged to pay even without the note “signature on file” on the service receipts if orders are sent by email / internet and the contractor does not have the cardholder's signatures.

Mail order prohibitions

There is a general ban on their mail order business for products that are not suitable for young people ( Section 12 Paragraph 3 No. 2 JuSchG). According to Section 1, Paragraph 4 of the JuSchG, there is no prohibited mail-order business if suitable precautions are taken to prevent the goods ordered from falling into the hands of children and young people . It must not be included in the list of media harmful to minors in accordance with Section 18 (1) JuSchG.

Furthermore, drugs for use on humans may be placed on the market in Germany via mail order pharmacies with official permission ( drug mail order business in Germany ; Section 43 (1) AMG in conjunction with Section 11a ApoG ), for drugs for use on animals the mail order business is in Germany still prohibited ( Section 43 (5) AMG).

Mail order in EU excise law

The European Union has issued restrictive regulations in Article 36 of Directive 2008/118 / EC for the mail order business with goods that are subject to a consumption tax . Germany has implemented these provisions in its consumption tax laws - for sparkling wine, for example, in Section 21 Sparkling Wine Tax Act . Prior to delivery, the mail order company must appoint an agent in the country of destination who will assume the tax obligations. This agent must register with the main customs office . If the mail order company does not adhere to these provisions, it becomes the tax debtor himself. The - private - recipient will never be directly liable for tax under German law. However, the EU directive provides for exceptions that are not contained in German law. A mail order company based in Germany must therefore find out in advance about the legal situation in each EU member state to which it wishes to deliver.

The regulations in Austria differ in that no representative has to be appointed here. The foreign mail order company remains the tax debtor, although it has to pay its own tax liability to the Innsbruck customs office (e.g. according to Section 52 of the Alcohol Tax Act).

economic aspects

Differentiation according to target group

There are basically two types of mail order business:

Differentiation according to assortment

A distinction is made between:

  • Special mail order companies: mail order companies that specialize in one range of products (textiles / fashion, hi-fi, sound carriers, furniture, etc.). Examples are Conrad Electronic , Madeleine Mode , Borek Briefmarken , Pro idee and Walbusch .
  • Universal mail order company: Mail order companies that usually offer a "department store" range (clothing, entertainment electronics, furniture, housewares, ...) with one or more seasonally appearing main catalogs, supported by several special catalogs. After the insolvency of Quelle-Versand and von Neckermann , this category is hardly represented on the market. Representatives of this group in Germany are Otto-Versand , BAUR and Schwab . The share of online sales by universal mail order companies is growing continuously and is beginning to displace the catalog as the most important source of sales.

After an order has been placed and the subsequent agreement on a payment process, the products are sent to the end customer by delivery services or logistics service providers . Here, the different Privatkundenlogistik of the trade logistics through the challenges of the so-called last mile to the customer.

Shipping process

The shipping process in a company should be as continuous as possible and without major interventions or delays. The order acceptance, dispatch processing, actual delivery and returns management are the essential steps.

  • Order acceptance : Acquisition of the order data from the customer order and checking the availability of the articles.
  • Dispatch processing : Creation of a packing list and printing of the invoice , address label and other return documents.
  • Delivery : Handover of the goods to a suitable shipping service provider.
  • Returns management : Checking the reason for the return of the goods and analyzing the further procedure.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Mail order  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Mail order company  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ OV, The Montgomery Ward Story , in: Der Versandhausberater No. 1, 2001, p. 6
  2. Shopping Innovations, The History of the Shopping Mall, August 9, 2016
  3. Jörg Knoblauch, Die Personalfalle , 2010, p. 127
  4. ^ Heinrich Holland, direct marketing: In dialogue with the customer , 2011, p. 1
  5. Mey & Edlich - Buy fashion for men online. Retrieved May 16, 2018 .
  6. ^ 1. Mey & Edlich catalog . In: The New York Public Library Digital Collections . January 31, 2017 ( [accessed May 16, 2018]).
  7. ^ André Loh-Kliesch: Mey, Ernst - entrepreneur in Leipzig. Retrieved May 16, 2018 .
  8. Patrick Siegfried, Onlinehandel: 19 Successful Business Concepts , Volume 1, 2014, p. 357
  9. Klaus Taubert : "Planned economy like from a picture book" , one day , Spiegel Online , October 8, 2010
  10. Top 100 online shops with the highest turnover in Germany. 2016 e-commerce sales of B2C shops for physical goods in € million: For the ninth time, EHI and Statista are providing an overview of the current e-commerce market in Germany. The ranking of the top 100 online shops was based on the study "E-Commerce Market Germany 2017", in which the 1,000 online shops with the highest turnover were examined. EHI Retail Institute GmbH, November 29, 2017, accessed on January 6, 2018 .
  11. Wolfgang Fikentscher / Andreas Heinemann, Schuldrecht , 2006, p. 465
  12. ^ BGH, judgment of January 13, 2004, Az .: XI ZR 479/02 = BGH WM 2004, 1130 , 1131
  13. BGHZ 150, 286 , 292
  14. BGH WM 2004, 1130, 1131
  15. BGH WM 2004, 1130, 1131
  16. BGH WM 2004, 1130, 1132
  17. ^ BGH, judgment of July 12, 2005, Az .: XI ZR 412/04 = BGHZ 157, 256
  18. Kirsten Sucker-Sket: Veterinary medicinal products: BGH restricts the ban on shipping veterinary medicinal products . In: , May 4, 2010. Retrieved December 26, 2010. 
  19. Directive 2008/118 / EC (PDF)
  20. Alcohol Tax Law Austria