Trus­ted Shops: ad absur­dum!?

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Trus­ted Shops Gua­ran­tee Logo

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.”

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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 info@rehkatsch.de or 0221–4201074.

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