Thu, Nov. 04, 2010

Return of Goods to Online Merchant

CK - Washington.   Online merchants suffered a blow on November 3, 2010 when the German Supreme Court for Civil Matters in Karlsruhe ruled against a merchant in the case VIII ZR 337/09. The merchant had sold a water bed for 1253 Euros to a private consumer. It had provided the required legal information for the return of the purchase, explaining that filling the bed would render it unsuitable for resale if returned.

The customer filled the bed, examined it and returned it for a full refund. The merchant refunded 258 Euros, the cost of the embedded heating unit. The customer sued for the balance and won.

The court, Bundesgerichtshof, held that European consumer protection law as applied in Germany requires the full refund. The merchant's return information was accurate but inapplicable to the extent the customer had to fill the bed for its examination.

Under the E.U. rules, a consumer may examine the goods purchased online without resulting liability or deduction, and the plaintiff had no option other than filling the bed with water. The resulting loss is a risk of doing business that the merchant needs to absorb and cannot shift to the consumer, the court affirmed.

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