Amazon A-to-Z Guarantee - Deceptive Security for Buyers

The BGH has ruled that the Amazon Marketplace seller does not lose its purchase price claim against the plaintiff if Amazon refunds the purchase price to the buyer due to a successful A-to-Z guarantee claim. Rather, the seller's purchase price claim against the buyer is revived.

What was the reason for the legal dispute?

The defendant purchased an oven from the plaintiff via its Amazon Marketplace for approximately € 1,300 and paid the purchase price to the plaintiff. Subsequently, Amazon granted the defendant's A-to-Z guarantee application, debited the purchase price from the plaintiff's Amazon account and transferred the purchase price to the defendant. The background to the defendant's A-to-Z guarantee request was apparently defects in the stove.

The district court seised by the plaintiff ordered the defendant to pay the purchase price. On appeal by the defendant, the Regional Court dismissed the action. Essentially, the Court of Appeal based its decision on the fact that the plaintiff as seller had reached an agreement with Amazon that the plaintiff as seller was bound by Amazon's decision under the A-to-Z guarantee grant. The appeal was successful and led to referral back to the Regional Court for a new hearing and decision.

The seller's purchase price claim is re-established

The BGH found that with the consensual settlement of the contract via Amazon Marketplace, the parties re-established the purchase price claim in the event that Amazon debited the plaintiff's Amazon account back due to a successful A to Z guarantee claim.

Re-establishment of the purchase price claim is tacitly agreed

The parties to the purchase contract would not expressly agree on a re-establishment of the purchase price claim, but they would tacitly agree on it. This result would, however, result from an interpretation of the contract that is in line with the interests of the parties.

- There were no indications that the parties wanted the A-to-Z guarantee to supersede the statutory and/or contractual rights. According to the parties' intention, the purchase price claim should be revived.

- According to the legal regulatory system of the BGB, the rights from a guarantee are in addition to the warranty rights under purchase law. This would also argue against a commitment to the A to Z guarantee and for the revival of the purchase price claim.

- If the A-to-z Guarantee were binding on both contracting parties, Amazon would take on the role of an arbitrator. However, the provisions of the A-to-Z Guarantee Conditions are far too unclear and unbalanced to regulate the relationship between the contracting parties in a manner that is appropriate and in line with their interests. Therefore, the buyer must not assume that the seller wants to allow such a far-reaching interference with his rights as a seller.

What are the consequences for customers and retailers at Amazon?

The A-to-Z guarantee remains attractive for the buyer. The buyer receives the purchase price without legal proceedings and also does not bear the insolvency risk of the seller. However, he must also be prepared to be sued by the seller if he does not pay him. Whether the lawsuit is successful is then a question of the individual case.

For traders, the BGH's decision is good news. They can and may continue to stick to their contractual partner. At first, one might think that the BGH has done a disservice to the traders. Even in "corona times", Amazon's insolvency risk should be almost zero, which cannot necessarily be said of private and/or corporate customers. However, it should not be overlooked that many traders are dependent on sales via the Amazon Marketplace. Many traders are therefore likely to shy away from disputes with Amazon.

The BGH's ruling means that traders have at least one less thing to worry about.

Source: BGH, ruling dated 01.04.2020, ref. no. VIII ZR 18/19

Previous instances: AG Leipzig, judgment of 23.04.2018, ref. 108 C 3148/17; LG Leipzig, judgment of 15.01.2019, ref. 2 S 245/18

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GoldbergUllrich Lawyers 2020

Lawyer Julius Oberste-Dommes LL.M. (Information Law)

Specialist lawyer for information technology law