Should the sale of stolen goods be legal

The criminal component

Stolen goods on eBay - The legal situation for stolen goods

The internet auction house eBay offers itself, as it were, to offer stolen goods resulting from theft or break-ins. While in the pre-eBay times stolen items were often moved to a gray market or were sold on the flea market, it can be assumed that the majority of stolen goods are sold on eBay. Nowhere else is there the possibility of bringing “used goods” to the man or woman in such an inconspicuous manner. In some cases, an item description should make you prick up your ears, for example when notebooks are offered whose access password is not known. The same applies to improperly "dismantled" car radios or navigation systems in luxury vehicles, for which it generally makes no sense to offer these products. In addition, it is relatively easy to open a member account on eBay under a false identity. Another indication in these cases can be, for example, that the name of the account holder to whom the purchase price is to be relied on differs from the name of the eBay member.

Both buying and selling stolen goods can be a criminal offense. Relevant here is the so-called stealing according to § 259 StGB. Anyone who buys, procures, sells or helps sell something that has been stolen from someone else is punished. Stealing is punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years or a fine. Anyone who steals commercially or is a member of a gang of thieves must expect a minimum prison sentence of 6 months up to a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Under criminal law, however, both the seller and the buyer can only get into trouble if they knew that the goods were stolen. At least the buyer will not be aware of this, even if, as mentioned above, certain indications indicate that the goods come from not entirely flawless sources. The situation is different, however, if the buyer finds out after the purchase that the goods are stolen and then resells them to avoid further disadvantages. Here the criminal offense of receiving stolen goods is given.

The legislature protects the stolen very comprehensively. Acquiring ownership of stolen items is fundamentally not possible in accordance with Section 935 of the German Civil Code (BGB). In this respect, the legislature speaks of stolen, lost or otherwise lost objects in § 935 BGB. So if you find something on the street and later sell it on eBay, you cannot provide the buyer with property.

If the original owner finds out that someone has bought his stolen things on eBay, he has a right to the surrender of the thing without ifs and buts. Our practice shows that these cases are by no means unusual, especially when, for example, serial numbers of products are included in the description of the offer. The buyer has no choice but to reclaim the purchase price from the seller. The purchased item is defective in the legal sense, as the seller, contrary to his obligations under the purchase contract, cannot provide the buyer with property. The seller can therefore not fulfill the sales contract. In addition to the fact that the seller has to repay the purchase price, he also faces criminal consequences and inquiries from the public prosecutor's office.

Your contact: Lawyer Johannes Richard, Rostock

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