Why are signatures required for eBay deliveries?

Is there a right of withdrawal for internet auctions or online purchases?

Principle: contracts must be fulfilled

Once you have submitted a bid at an internet auction, you are legally bound to it. If it is the highest bid, you are also a contractual partner of an effective purchase contract and are obliged to pay the purchase price. The general rule is that contracts, once they have come into effect, must also be fulfilled. The law does not have a general right of withdrawal.

Right of withdrawal for distance contracts

An exception applies to so-called distance sales contracts. These requirements are met if the seller is an entrepreneur and the buyer is a consumer and the respective contract for the delivery of goods or the provision of services is concluded using only means of distance communication (in this case the Internet) (§ 312b BGB). In this case, according to § 312d BGB, the consumer has the right to cancel the contract i.a. to revoke within two weeks without giving reasons and without payment of a penalty.

According to 355 BGB, the right of withdrawal must be declared to the seller in writing or by returning the purchased goods. The text form is maintained by every written declaration that reveals the person making the declaration and is concluded with his signature, name or similar. Since a handwritten signature and sending of an original document are not required, transmission by fax or email is sufficient.

The deadline for revocation is usually 2 weeks. It begins with the delivery of the goods to the buyer and expires no later than 6 months after the conclusion of the contract. However, the period does not run as long as the seller has not been instructed in a clearly perceptible form about the right of withdrawal to which he is entitled.

Legal situation at the internet auction

The question, initially controversial in the case law, whether the right of withdrawal also exists if a sales contract has been concluded in the course of an internet auction, e.g. via eBay, was decided by a landmark judgment of the Federal Court of Justice of November 3, 2004 (Az: VIII ZR 375/03) for clarified judicial practice. Thereafter, the right of withdrawal has been expressly affirmed.

However, it should be emphasized that the prerequisite for the right of withdrawal is in any case a distance contract within the meaning of Section 312 d BGB; a contract that has been concluded between an entrepreneur and a consumer. Contracts in which only entrepreneurs or only consumers are on both sides are therefore not affected.

The right of withdrawal is only available to the consumer, not to the entrepreneur.

According to a decision of the KG Berlin (Az: 5 W 156/06), however, there is a special feature: the right of withdrawal on eBay is not 14 days but 1 month, since the customer is informed about his right of withdrawal individually (e.g. by email ) must receive. Otherwise, the instruction has not been received in the legally required text form and the period is extended from 14 days to one month. In the opinion of the court, the publication of the cancellation policy on the Internet does not comply with the text form.

In order to avoid difficulties and warnings, commercial traders should ensure that the instructions used reflect this fact.

For the question of whether a revocation has been exercised in time, it depends on the dispatch of the declaration or the goods by the buyer, i.e. not on the receipt by the seller.

Legal situation when buying it now

If normal sales contracts are concluded over the Internet, the right of withdrawal has not been a problem so far. A normal sales contract in this sense is also an "buy it now" on ebay.

Last update: 05/12/2021