Legal translation: not translating legal content can be costly
A recent German court ruling highlights the importance of legal translation in an increasingly globalised market. Social media apps have a massive user base. App developers understand the importance of localising their content for the markets they operate in, but terms and conditions of use, privacy policies and other legal content may not necessarily be translated into the local language, as this case indicates.
The language industry blog Slator reported the other day that WhatsApp faces a potential € 250,000 fine for failing to translate the applications’ terms and conditions of use from English into German so local users could comprehend them.
While WhatsApp content is available in German, the consumer organisation which launched the case complained that the terms and conditions contained “technical legal language”, meaning it was mostly incomprehensible to German users of the app.
Berlin’s Kammergericht court acknowledged that many Germans are capable of getting by in everyday English but that legal English is not something they are familiar with. The VZBV’s press release on the ruling states that “The court noted that no customer should have to face ‘an extensive, complex set of rules with a very large number of clauses’ in a foreign language,” thereby highlighting the importance of translating key legal terms when localising apps for other markets.
VZBZ’s press release also points out that “in the absence of a German translation, all the clauses lack transparency and are therefore legally void”.
The cost of legal translations is often minimal compared to the costs that can be payable in the event of litigation or administrative proceedings. Slator points out that WhatsApp would have paid around € 1,500 to get the documentation translated before publishing the content, but the cost could now be a € 250,000 administrative fine.