Error in the price of goods in the online store - a guide with patterns

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A mistake in the price of goods in an online store or at an online auction can cause a lot of problems. It is not difficult to make a mistake, e.g. entering a few zeros too little or issuing a product worth several hundred zlotys for PLN 1. What to do when a customer has bought a product at a discounted price and requests it to be released? How to protect yourself against such problems and how to deal with them when they arise? How to defend yourself in court?

Good store regulations protect against the effects of errors

If the customer placed an order using an error in the price on the store's website (underestimated price), it is important to determine whether the mere placing of the order results in the conclusion of a sales contract.The answer to this question should be found in the store regulations. The answer to this question determines how the store should react in the event of a mistake as to the price and the store's chances of winning in court. We write about the way of reaction and opportunities in court together with the description of court cases.

There are two options in the store regulations:

  • the contract is concluded when the customer places the order;

  • the contract is concluded when the order is accepted by the store.

The contract at the time of placing the order

The first variant of the regulations - a valid contract is concluded at the time of placing the order:

  • the website of the online store with the given price is treated as an offer to conclude a contract by the entrepreneur;

  • By placing an order, the customer accepts the offer and thus concludes a valid sales contract;

  • if it is noticed that there has been an error in the price and the contract has already been concluded, it is possible to make a declaration of avoidance of the legal consequences of the offer submitted under the influence of a price error - but this only applies to obvious cases where the customer should have easily noticed, that the price is the result of an error.

Example 1.

"As soon as the customer places an order, a sales contract is concluded".

The contract when the order is accepted by the store

Variant two of the regulations - a valid contract is concluded when the order is accepted by the store:

  • the website of the online store with the given price is treated as an invitation by the entrepreneur to customers to submit offers to buy the goods;

  • by placing an order, the customer submits an offer to conclude a contract; a valid sales contract has not yet been concluded, because for this it is necessary to accept the offer by the entrepreneur;

  • the store accepts the offer, informing the customer about it; thus, a sales contract is concluded;

  • if the store does not accept the customer's offer, the sale agreement will not be concluded;

  • in case of noticing a mistake in the price, it is enough not to accept the offer (order) and inform the customer about it;

  • an automatic message sent by the store software to the customer after placing the order should not inform that the order has been accepted, but that the store confirms the fact that the customer has placed the order;

  • information about the acceptance of the customer's order should be sent only after verifying that the order does not contain errors; if the order contains an error, the store may not accept it and inform the customer about it, regardless of whether the error is significant (each customer should easily notice it) or irrelevant (e.g. the goods were discounted by 20% by mistake).

Example 2.

“The Store's website does not constitute an offer within the meaning of the Civil Code, but an invitation to submit offers. When ordering goods, the customer submits an offer to conclude a contract. After placing the order, the Customer will immediately receive an automatically generated message to the e-mail address provided, confirming the receipt of the order by the Store. The sale contract is concluded when an e-mail is received from the store with information about the acceptance of the order for execution. This message is tantamount to the Seller's acceptance of the offer submitted by the Customer.

What not to enter in the store regulations?

When introducing changes to the regulations, one must be careful that they do not infringe the rights of consumers. The regulations must clearly show at what point the contract is concluded and the store should not have the right to freely interpret this moment.

It is forbidden to apply the following provisions in the regulations:

“Confirmation of the order does not mean 100% of its implementation. We reserve that for reasons beyond our control (run out of goods in stock, lack of goods at suppliers, etc.), we may partially fulfill the order or withdraw from its implementation. If there are problems with the execution of the order, we will immediately notify the customer about it "(an illegal contractual clause entered in the register of prohibited clauses under No. 4598).

Price error - how and when can it be invoked?

If a contract with an incorrect price was concluded, the entrepreneur running an online store to avoid the release of the goods is to refer to a price error in the store's offer, pursuant to art. 84 of the Civil Code. How to do it?

  • a statement must be submitted to the customer that the statement (offer to sell) has been evaded due to a price error;

  • the error as to the price must be significant - justifying the supposition that if it were not for the error in the price, the reasonable entrepreneur would not have displayed the goods in the store at this price;

  • the store customer knew about the error or could easily notice the error in the price (e.g. a product worth PLN 1,000 was sold for PLN 1); the problem occurs when the error was of such a size that it could be considered a discount or sale - then referring to the error may not be effective;

  • the entrepreneur must submit a written statement to the customer on evasion of the legal consequences of the statement (sale offer) made under the influence of an error (reason - error in price);

  • a declaration of evasion must be submitted within 1 year of the detection of the error; it is not possible to extend or restore this deadline.

Gdańsk, October 8, 2018

Jan Kowalski

Jan Kowalski Online Store

ul. Sample 1

11-111 Gdańsk

Maria Nowak

ul. Test 1

22-222 Gdynia

 

Declaration of avoidance of legal consequences

a declaration made in error

Madam,

I would like to inform you that the order of a XYZ mobile phone, model 12345, placed by you on October 9, 2018, for the price of PLN 1.53 in the online store I run at sklepabcd.example.com cannot be processed, because it was provided in the store the price of PLN 1.53 was the result of an error. The correct price for the phone is PLN 1,530.

In connection with the above, pursuant to Art. 84 § 1 and 2 of the Civil Code, I declare that I refrain from the legal consequences of a declaration of will submitted under the influence of error - posted on the website of the online store I run at sklepabcd.example.com, an offer to sell a XYZ mobile phone, model 12345, for the price of 1 PLN .53, which you ordered in the online store on October 9, 2018.

Kind regards,

Jan Kowalski

Error in the price on Allegro: PLN 7,749 instead of PLN 77,490

A price error may also happen when listing products on auction portals, e.g. Allegro.

A case went to court in which an employee of a company selling woodworking machines, during the New Year's price update, mistakenly set the price at PLN 7,749 instead of PLN 77,490. The error in price was immediately used by one of the companies that purchased the machine via the "buy now" option. And he refused to agree to the price change. What did the seller do in this situation? He referred to a price error and made a written declaration to the buyer that the declaration had been deviated from by an error (price error). The buyer did not give up and brought a case to court for the machine to be issued to him.

The seller won the court case. First, the District Court in Krosno, and then the District Court in Rzeszów (judgment of 29/12/2015, file ref. VI Ga 373/15) considering the appeal, decided that the seller's evasion of an offer made due to a price error was effective, so the seller is under no obligation to release the machine at a discounted price.

The courts found that the following conditions were met:

  • there was an error (here: the price of the machine was entered incorrectly);

  • the error was significant - it concerned the price, its scope was large;

  • the error in the price had to be noticed by the buyer (the sale offer did not contain any statement allowing to assume that the offer is the result of a sale, or the product is damaged or has some defect, a superficial reading of the offer must have led to the belief that the price was a mistake, the buyer was active in the woodworking industry, the machine at the auction was described in detail, with reference to additional materials - the film and the manufacturer's website);

  • the seller submitted to the buyer a declaration of evasion of the legal consequences of the sale offer submitted under the influence of a mistake and did it on time.

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Error in the price on the website of the online store: PLN 1 instead of PLN 1,500

In one of the online stores, during service work, the price of the shock absorbers sold was mistakenly set to PLN 1 and PLN 0 per item, instead of about PLN 1,500 per item. The customer decided to buy 30 pieces and paid PLN 30 for them instead of about PLN 46,000, using a price error.

The store regulations provided that the moment of placing an order on the store's website by the Buyer is the moment of concluding a contract between the seller and the buyer.

The store canceled the order, indicating that there was a price error introduced during the service work, and sent the buyer a letter in which it evaded the effects of an offer submitted under the influence of an error.

The buyer took the case to court and demanded the delivery of the shock absorbers for the price for which the contract was concluded, i.e. PLN 30. He won in the court of first instance - the district court decided that the contract had been concluded and that the buyer could demand its performance. The district court also found that the buyer did not make a mistake and could not easily notice the error, it could also find that the price was the result of the marketing ploy of the online store.
The judgment was appealed by the seller to the District Court in Białystok (judgment of 13/12/2013, file reference number II Ca 1075/13). The District Court agreed with the seller.

The District Court found that the invocation of the error in price by the seller was effective and thus the contract ceased to be binding. the buyer could easily spot the error because:

  • ordinary life experience indicates that offering to buy any goods for a price of PLN 1 or PLN 0 may be the result of a mistake and should raise doubts among the buyer;

  • it does not matter whether the buyer is professionally active in the industry in which the purchased parts are used;

  • the incorrectly stated price did not constitute any promotional price - there was no information on the website that it was a sale or a special occasion;

  • lowering the price of a product worth PLN 1,500 to PLN 1 cannot be considered as an action justified in any other way than just an error.

  • every rational person is able to notice that in the described situation the price does not correspond to reality and conclude that the offered price is wrong.

A new laptop for PLN 16 instead of PLN 1,605

Laptops for PLN 16 instead of PLN 1,605 were mistakenly issued by one of the online stores. The customer ordered and paid for 5 pieces. The store referred to a price error and waived the legal consequences of its statement. The client took the case to court - and lost both before the district court and the district court.

The District Court in Gliwice (judgment of 18 December 2014, file reference number III Ca 1043/14) decided that, in accordance with the regulations of the online store, a sales contract was concluded. Displaying the goods in the store was a public sale offer, which the customer accepted when placing the order. And the acceptance of the offer results in the conclusion of the contract. As the store submitted a statement on the evasion of the legal consequences of the offer caused by the error, it led to the collapse of the legal consequences of the concluded contract. And he did not have to spend laptops for PLN 16. According to the court, the error was so obvious that the buyer could easily notice it when comparing the store's offer with the offers of other sellers, and even without further checking, following only the rules of logic and life experience.