In February 2007, the plaintiff from the district of Bitburg-Prüm received a letter which was headed with the words: "All of Germany took part = you have won! Below this, in small letters, was the addition "Invitation of the winners 5th-555th prize". The letter went on to say: "Dear Ms ... [plaintiff], today we have the wonderful task of informing you, Ms ... [plaintiff], that taking part in our competition has also been worthwhile for you. You ... are a winner. ...". In a subsequent "extract from the list of winners", the winners of prizes 1-4 are named. The name of the plaintiff is given as the winner of the 3rd prize ("8 x 1,500 euros in cash (pers. transfer)"). It is stated below that the prize was to be handed over during a bus trip, for which a registration coupon was enclosed. The plaintiff registered, but did not receive the alleged prize. The sender of the letter and addressee of the registration card for the bus trip was a "Reservations Service, P.O. Box ..." in the judicial district of Lahnstein. The defendant, who commercially operates a booking and reservation service there, set up the post office box.
The plaintiff demanded payment of 1,500 euros plus interest from the defendant. The defendant claimed that he had set up the P.O. box for a company based in Switzerland which organised sales events; he had not been aware of the content of the prize notification. The District Court granted the action by judgment of 14 January 2008. On the defendant's appeal, the Koblenz Regional Court confirmed the judgement by order of 29 April 2008 and dismissed the appeal.
According to the judges, the requirements of § 661 a BGB as the basis of the plaintiff's claim (legal text printed below) are fulfilled. In particular, the defendant, as the owner of the post office box, must be held to the performance promised in the letter. As the District Court and the Court of Appeal agreed, it is decisive that, from the perspective of an "objective recipient", the letter contained a promise of a prize and that the defendant had been named as the owner of the P.O. box under his company "Reservations Service" and thus as the person responsible for the letter. In the opinion of the Appeals Chamber, the defendant was also obliged to pay if he had not been aware of the contents of the letter, as he had claimed; in this case, liability from the prize promise distributed via his P.O. box was justified according to the principles of the power of attorney by estoppel and the prima facie case of liability. This is also supported by the fact that the events which took place on the basis of the prize promise indisputably took place in the defendant's hotel. The defendant is therefore obliged to pay the prize of 1,500 euros (plus interest) promised in the letter.
No further appeal is open against the order of the Regional Court.
Order of 29.04.2008, Ref.: 12 S 30/08 - Regional Court Koblenz
Source: Press release of the Koblenz Regional Court dated 02.06.2008, Media Office, Karmeliterstraße 14, 56068 Koblenz, Telephone: 0261/102-0, Fax: 0261/102-1908, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Goldberg Attorneys at Law, Wuppertal-Solingen 2008
Attorney at Law Michael Ullrich, LL.M.(Information Law)