E-Commerce

Acceptance deadlines in e-commerce

E-commerce: how long can online businesses set in their general terms and conditions as a deadline for accepting customer orders? Is five days too long? A court in Germany recently handed down a ruling answering these questions.

Acceptance deadlines in e-commerce © Africa Studio - Fotolia.com

Acceptance deadlines in e-commerce © Africa Studio – Fotolia.com

E-commerce acceptance deadline

What time limit can online businesses give themselves to accept orders from consumers? Is 5 days too long?

In a case heard by the Regional Court of Hamburg, an online business’ general terms and conditions contained the following clause:

“If you (the consumer) do not receive within 5 days confirmation of your order, correspondence concerning delivery or if you do not receive the goods, you are no longer bound by your order. Any payments you have made in this respect will be refunded immediately.”

5 days: legal or illegal?

One of the business’ competitors obtained an injunction against the clause from the Hamburg regional court (case ref.: 315 O 422/12)

The online business objected to the injunction claiming that at some points in the year it is not able to process the orders any faster and that sometimes consumers place orders in the middle of the night.

The Regional Court of Hamburg accepted the online business’ arguments and reversed its own decision to grant the injunction (315 O 422/12).

The court noted that it is important that e-commerce businesses give themselves enough time to accept contract offers made by consumers. In the court’s opinion, the deadline of 5 days was reasonable.

Conclusion

As this case concerns a lower court judgment, online businesses should not readily rely on it. Even at peak times, consumers expect to receive quick confirmation of their orders.

Although a 5 days window was accepted by the court in this case, it is questionable whether the practice is sufficient to maintain a business’ goodwill.

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Kilian Kost joined WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE as a lawyer in 2009. He specialises in internet law and competition law. In 2013 he became an accredited intellectual property lawyer.

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