Consumer Contracts in the European Union and the USA: Are You Required to Translate Them?

Translating consumer contracts is becoming an increasing legal requirement across the world. In cases when you’re not legally bound to make your terms and conditions available in the local language, it is still a good commercial practice to do so. Your customers should be able to understand your content, no matter the market or the language your business is originally operating in.

But are you required to translate consumer contracts in the EU and the US? Here’s what you should know.

Translation requirements for consumer contracts in the US

In a number of US states, translation of consumer contracts is a legal requirement. The California state government issued a bill on September 25, 2020, requiring businesses that negotiate consumer agreements in a language other than English to translate every term and condition in those documents. The previous version of the California bill stated that businesses negotiating contracts in Spanish, Chinese, or Vietnamese are legally obliged to provide a translated copy of the document to the buyer. These translation requirements have now been extended under AB 3254.

Other than California that is known for having the strictest requirements, many other states in the US have similar consumer protection laws in place. For example, the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act requires contracts in another language to be accompanied by a signed certification of the consumer’s full understanding of the contract.

Translating consumer contracts in the European Union

When expanding abroad, it’s vital to ensure your business complies with all relevant laws and regulations. One of the most significant challenges for e-commerce businesses operating across the EU is to reduce the risks of potential variations of local consumer laws. Depending on the target country, you might be subject to legal requirements to translate privacy policies, consumer contracts, or terms of supply.

According to the European Commission’s study on translation and multilingualism in the EU, each member state can set its own legal requirements regarding the consumer contracts translations.

“Member States are thus free to set requirements in their national legislation concerning the use of a certain language (which is generally the language of the Member State where the consumer is resident) for consumer contracts concerned, but at the same time they remain free not to regulate the question at all.”

Even if you’re not legally obliged to do so, translating the consumer laws into the local’s language is a smart commercial practice.

It’s important to note that multilingualism plays a key role in the European Union’s identity. The Commission has an aim to promote linguistic diversity in the society, as well as “give citizens access to European Union legislation, procedures, and information in their own languages.” The 2008 Communication entitled “Multilingualism: an asset for Europe and a shared commitment” certainly represents a crucial milestone for intercultural dialogue and commerce.

The need for professional, legal translation

When negotiating contracts in the USA and the EU, you should be aware of all consumer laws and regulations in the target country. It might be best to seek legal advice in order to ensure your business is fully compliant with the local law.

Similarly, working with professional legal translators is the safest way to localize consumer contracts. To avoid any confusion around what your customers are signing and ensuring the legality of any contract negotiation, you should opt for professionally translated documents.

At Language Buró, we translate all major languages with guaranteed quality. If you are looking for a legal translation company that will deliver documents from a variety of legal specialties while respecting legal terminology, then you have found the ideal partner. We’ll be happy to assist you with your translations of consumer contracts for both EU and the US. Get in touch with us for a free translation quote.