Reliability of Price Published Online

Is an online merchant bound to the price on his website or on the price he had as published at a price search engine? Top listing without top offer, can that be possible? The BGH gave us an answer on March 11, 2010 (re I ZR 123/08).


The parties in this case both sell household electronics. The defendant offered an espresso machine via the price search engine A price mishap occurred. The defendant changed his price on his personal website and simultaneously informed that he changed his price by € 37. The problem is here that price search engines do not immediately follow up on the price change until usually later. So it happened here that the old price was still online at the engine for three hours and the defendant had the best price and was listed first. The price determines the order of presentation in price search engines. It was the best price among 45 other offers – even though three hours ago, at 8 p.m., the price was changed to be in the middle field.

The Federal Court of Justice was very critical: This top listing is a competitive advantage and considered this as misleading in terms of §5 UWG. The law says that such competition is misleading when the price is not clear. It especially held that

  • Consumers assume with price search engines the most current references,
  • Shop owners may only then change the price in their system when the search engine has adopted the reported change.

The BGH does not permit the disclaimer "Offer subject to change without notice”. It can be expected of the vendor that he changes the sales price in his web shop only after the price in the price search engine has been updated. Even though consumers are familiar with the specialties of the Internet and so with its technical limits, nevertheless they expect that the merchandise’s price in a price search engine can be purchased at the price published there and not at the not yet updated prices.

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