Contractual Liability of an eBay Account Holder for its Misuse

Due to some unexpected responses and transactions of your eBay account, you notice that it is being misused by someone else. Can you really be held liable for what you have not done but somebody else did – allegedly in your name. The BGH gave clarity to your responsibilities with its judgment of May 11, 2011 (re VIII ZR 289/09).


What happened was that the husband of the eBay member Sue, without her knowledge had placed a whole gastronomy’s arrangement into eBay. The plaintiff in the case was the highest bidder and insisted on delivery. After vainly demanding fulfillment of the purchase, he then only wanted damages.

The misuse of an eBay account is to be solved with the rules of . Apparent authority (= assumingly having power of attorney) cannot be assumed just because somebody knows your login details. The case as described here is a typical contract under the name of someone else. When somebody acts in somebody else’s name with this person‘s approval, the contract will only become valid when the represented person accepts. Nothing else is generally true when this “agent” is your spouse. The fact alone not to have taken due care to prevent misuse of the login details does not constitute or legitimate a closure. The assumption of such kind of agency will only be possible when this has happened for a certain period and frequency. When your “better half” only once misuses your account, no agency will be assumed.

The plaintiff further argued that he could demand damages on grounds of the STC of eBay. The judges only shook their heads and denied. These standard terms and conditions exclusively determine rights and duties among the contractual parties.


Do take good care that your login combination cannot be misused. As shown in this report, the consequences will be at least very annoying and at worst very expensive. If after a second time your user name and password have been used without your consent, you can held liable on a contractual basis. When trademarks or copyright or competition law has been infringed, often you can held liable without any fault.


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