Online Seller Vies to Duck Consumer-Protection Law

(CN) – The EU’s top court set the parameters Thursday for consumer-protection authorities to go after an internet seller whose refusal to issue a refund ticked off a customer.

Even though Evelina Kamenova had posted a number of items for sale on the Bulgarian shopping website olx.bg, the European Court of Justice determined today that such advertisements are not enough to establish a person as a “trader” within the meaning of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.

“It is clear from the wording of Article 2(b) of Directive 2005/29 and of Article 2(2) of Directive 2011/83 that, in order to qualify as a ‘trader’, the person concerned must be acting ‘for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession’ or in the name of or on behalf of a trader,” the ruling from the court’s Fifth Chamber states.

As to whether Kamenova qualifies, the court stressed that such determinations must be made on a case-by-case basis by the national court.

Here the Administrative Court in Varna, Bulgaria, must examine whether Kamenova, “who published simultaneously on an online platform eight advertisements offering new and second-hand goods for sale, was acting for ‘purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession’ or in the name or on behalf of a trader,” the ruling states.

Bulgarian’s Consumer Protection Commission had found Kamenova’s eight advertisements while investigating a complaint against her by a customer who had bought a watch from Kamenova over the internet, only to find that the product she sent him did come as advertised.

The customer wanted a refund, but Kamenova, acting through her profile eveto-ZZ, turned him down.

Kamenova sued when the consumer-protection authority found she had committed a number of offenses. Among other things, the commission nailed Kamenova for failing to include her name and contact information in all of her advertisements; the total price of products she was selling, including taxes and fees; and what a conditions a consumer must meet to withdraw from a contract.”

Though the District Court in Varna annulled the decision on the basis that Kamenova was not a trader, the commission is appealing the determination to the Administrative Court. That body put the case on hold to get input from the European Court of Justice.

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