Who does not know it? You want to make an online purchase and come across a store via price search engines without knowing whether it is reputable. Will the goods be okay? Are there any warranty claims? Does a revocation work?
This is where “Trusted Shops” steps in. A service company from Cologne that checks retailers and informs customers if they can shop worry-free. At least in theory.
Trusted Shops advertises as follows:
“Our seal of approval always stands for 100% trust and, in conjunction with buyer protection, always for security.”
Now, however, things can turn out differently. This was the case, for example, with the sales platform Beelara.de in the summer of 2017. Beelara.de was founded in 2016 and specialized in slightly higher-priced goods such as smartphones, notebooks, garden furniture or fully automatic coffee machines. The company had itself verified as a merchant by Trusted Shops, pays the company a handsome fee for this (according to the price list, the annual fee is between EUR 1,047 — EUR 4,419, plus any additional options) and receives certification with a seal of approval and buyer protection. This is advertised as usual in a prominent manner, namely in three places on the start page of the store (at the top center, at the bottom center and on the right edge of the screen by a constantly displayed “TrustedBadge”).
The key message for the average viewer is:
“This is a safe place to shop. Everything was checked. There are no hazards or risks. Buyer protection covers all eventualities.”
www.beelara.de the fraud platform
The operators of Beelara.de are fraudulently exploiting this guarantee promise to potential buyers: after orders were properly delivered for several months, apparently to receive proper reviews, this suddenly changed in June 2017. Numerous items were offered up to 20% cheaper than at other retailers and placed in the usual price search engines. A period of about two weeks was given as the delivery time. Only prepayment was accepted. In the event of complaints, customers were put off or even given EUR 50 vouchers.
In mid-June 2017, Trusted Shops identified behavior on the part of Beelara.de that was in violation of Trusted Shops’ regulations. As a result, Trusted Shops decided to revoke the certification of the company Beelara.de, which probably happened. At the same time, however, Trusted Shops decided to leave the rating system and thus also the prominently placed seals of approval integrated on the sales platform. In this way, Trusted Shops wanted to give potential customers the opportunity to find out about the reviews and be warned if necessary.
The opposite happened: due to the displayed seals and logos, hundreds, if not thousands of customers trusted the seriousness of the sales platform and eagerly ordered goods, which they also paid for in advance.
Trusted Shops failed to properly inform and warn the customers despite the positive knowledge about the dubiousness of the company. The included seals and logos have not been disabled. The logos also did not contain any warning such as “Attention, certification withdrawn” or the like. It was suggested that everything was fine.
Based on what we know so far (July 30, 2017), thousands of customers are likely to have been cheated, not to have received any goods, and millions in damages may have been incurred.
Why then Trusted Shops and the seal of approval?
Obviously, the promise of a guarantee “in the blue” cannot be relied on without reservation. But then such a seal probably makes no sense at all, at least according to the author’s opinion. Because only the confidence in the seal and thus in a sales store allows the decision to buy there without restrictions. An impulse “Trusted Shops seal” = “shopping” should probably be prohibited if you really want to be 100% safe.
The owner of the law firm Rehkatsch Rechtsanwälte has himself become a victim of the fraud scam, in which unrestricted trust was placed in the Trusted Shops seal. Currently, Trusted Shops has been requested to reimburse the damage incurred (in this case: EUR 769.00) as part of the compensation for damages. This is based on pre-contractual liability pursuant to Section 311 of the German Civil Code in conjunction with Section 280 of the German Civil Code, in particular Section 311 (2) and (3) of the German Civil Code :
§ Section 311 Legal and quasi-legal obligations
(1) A contract between the parties involved shall be required for the establishment of a debt relationship by legal transaction as well as for the modification of the content of a debt relationship, unless the law prescribes otherwise.
(2) A debt relationship with obligations under § 241 para. 2 also arises from
1. the commencement of contract negotiations,
2. the initiation of a contract, in which one party, with a view to a possible legal relationship, grants the other party the possibility of influencing or entrusts the other party with its rights, legal goods and interests, or
3. similar business contacts.
(3) A debt relationship with obligations under § 241 para. 2 may also arise to persons who are not themselves to become parties to the contract. Such an obligation arises in particular if the third party claims trust to a particular extent and thereby significantly influences the contract negotiations or the conclusion of the contract.
Here, Trusted Shops is likely to have claimed trust to a considerable extent and significantly influenced the conclusion of the contract. Within the framework of this pre-contractual relationship, Trusted Shops would have had the duty, in the opinion of the author, to warn clearly and without restriction, if not to withdraw the certification and seal (“TrustedBadge”).
Should Trusted Shops see this differently, the law firm Rehkatsch Rechtsanwälte intends to have the matter clarified by legal proceedings. It is also currently being examined whether there might be any claims for injunctive relief that could be asserted by consumer or competition associations. More will be reported here in the near future.
If you too have been deceived by the Trusted Shops logo and have thus become an injured party of the sales platform Beelara.de, we would be grateful if you would be available to us as a witness. Should you also wish to have your claims pursued, we are available by phone at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0221–4201074.