Table of contents
- What is rip-off on the Internet?
- How do I protect myself from rip-offs on the Internet?
- What should I do if I have already been the victim of a rip-off?
- Conclusion – Rip-offs on the Internet
What is rip-off on the Internet?
Rip-offs on the Internet are a growing problem that affects more and more users. The scammers use various methods to trap their victims. Some of the most common methods are:
In subscription traps, fraudsters lure users with supposedly free offers such as free SMS services, recipes or route planners. For this, users have to register on the website and enter their personal data.
What the users often do not know: With the registration, a contract is concluded that is automatically converted into a paid subscription. Users then receive a bill that often amounts to several hundred euros.
Fake online shops
In fake online shops, fraudsters pretend to sell real products but take the customers’ money and do not deliver the goods. Often the fake shops look deceptively real and have fake reviews to gain the customers’ trust.
Rip-offs on the Internet: Phishing mails
In phishing e-mails, fraudsters try to obtain sensitive data such as passwords or credit card details. They pretend to be reputable companies or authorities and ask the recipients to enter their data on a fake website. Once the fraudsters have this data, they can use it for their own purposes.
Fraudulent online auctions
In fraudulent online auctions, scammers pretend to sell products they do not actually own. They make customers pay the money upfront and then don’t deliver the goods.
How do I protect myself from rip-offs on the internet?
To protect yourself from being ripped off online, it is important to take some basic safety precautions. Here are some of the most important measures you can take:
Read the terms and conditions thoroughly
Use strong passwords
Using strong passwords is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from being ripped off online. Avoid passwords that are easy to guess, such as dates of birth, names of family members or simple words.
Install antivirus software
Good antivirus software can help detect and remove malware and malicious software on your computer.
Be wary of unknown emails
Do not open emails from unknown senders and do not click on links or attachments in such emails.
Check the website address to protect against rip-offs on the Internet
Check the website URL before giving out any personal or payment information. Reputable websites usually use the HTTPS protocol and have a lock icon in the browser address bar. You should also make sure you are on the right website, as fraudsters often create fake websites that look similar to those of reputable companies.
Use secure payment methods
When shopping or using services online, you should use secure payment methods, such as PayPal or credit cards. These payment methods provide extra security and protection against fraud. Avoid entering payment information on websites that are not secure or whose trustworthiness is unclear.
Avoid public WLAN
If you work in public areas such as airports or cafés, avoid using public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi is often insecure and can be used by fraudsters to steal your data or install malware on your computer. Instead, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to establish a secure connection.
Keep your software up to date
Make sure you regularly update your software, including your operating system. Updates often include important security updates that can protect your devices and data. It’s also important to regularly update your browsers and apps to ensure you get the latest security features and updates.
Trust your gut to avoid rip-offs on the internet
Trust your gut and be sceptical if an offer seems too good to be true. If something seems suspicious, research it thoroughly before acting on it or entering personal information.
What should I do if I have already been the victim of a rip-off on the Internet?
In addition to these practical tips, there are also some legal steps you can take to protect yourself against rip-offs on the internet. Here are some of the most important legal steps you can take:
1. Right of withdrawal
In many cases, you have the right to cancel a contract within a certain period of time. This is usually the case if you have concluded a contract at a distance, e.g. online shopping or a subscription. The right of withdrawal gives you the opportunity to cancel the contract and claim your money back if you are not satisfied with the product or service or if you think you have been the victim of a rip-off.
2. Contesting the contract
If you suspect that you have entered into a contract due to error or deception, you can dispute the contract. However, you must be able to prove that you would not have concluded the contract under these circumstances if you had known the true circumstances. If the contract is successfully challenged, it will be retroactively declared invalid and you may also be able to claim damages.
Possible grounds for a challenge can be:
You were induced to conclude the contract by false statements or deception.
You have concluded the contract under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
You have concluded the contract under false pretences.
If the challenge is successful, the contract will be declared null and void retroactively and you will no longer have to make any payments. You may also be able to claim damages.
3. Rip-offs on the internet – claiming damages
If you have been the victim of a rip-off on the Internet and have suffered financial damages, you can file a lawsuit for damages against the provider. However, you must be able to prove that the provider is responsible for the damage. This can be difficult because you have to prove that the provider deceived you intentionally or with gross negligence.
Possible grounds for a claim for damages can be:
The provider has intentionally or grossly negligently misled you.
The supplier has breached consumer protection laws.
The provider has given you sufficient or incorrect information about the contract or service.A successful claim for damages may result in you recovering the loss you have suffered and possibly also compensation for pain and suffering or non-material damage.
4. Action for a declaration that the contract is invalid
If you think that the contract is void because of defects or inefficiencies, you can file a lawsuit to have the contract declared void. This may be the case, for example, if the contract is invalid due to missing or unclear contractual terms or if the provider has violated legal regulations.
A successful lawsuit to establish the invalidity of the contract will result in the contract being retroactively declared invalid and you will no longer have to make any payments.
Rip-offs on the internet – current court rulings:
In recent years, there have been several court rulings dealing with rip-offs on the internet. Some of these judgements are:
OLG Frankfurt, judgement of 14.08.2019, ref. 6 U 64/19
In this judgment, it was ruled that a company that had sold a membership to an online club had not validly concluded the contract because it had not made it clear enough to the customer that it was a paid offer. The court ruled that the company had to cancel the contract and refund the amount paid to the customer.
Cologne Regional Court, judgement of 15.05.2018, ref. 33 O 124/17
In this case, a company had offered a supposedly free app, which, however, later incurred costs. The court ruled that the company had not sufficiently informed the customer about the costs and that the contract had therefore not been validly concluded. The company had to cancel the contract and refund the amount paid to the customer.
Rip-off on the Internet – Conclusion:
Rip-offs on the internet are a serious problem that affects more and more users. It is important to take basic safety precautions and be aware that free offers can often contain hidden costs.
If you have become a victim of a rip-off, you should act quickly and contact the provider. If you want to take legal action against the rip-off, you should seek advice from an experienced lawyer to take the best possible steps.
Legislation in the area of online rip-offs
It is also important to note that legislation in the area of online rip-offs is constantly evolving to improve consumer protection and put a stop to the perpetrators. Examples of relevant laws and court rulings are:
- The Consumer Rights Directive Implementation Act (VRUG): This law implements an EU directive and aims to improve consumer protection. Among other things, it stipulates that consumers must be informed clearly and comprehensibly about the content of the contract, the conditions and the costs when concluding the contract.
- The Unfair Competition Act (UWG): This law regulates competition between companies and prohibits in particular misleading advertising and aggressive business practices. Violations of the UWG can also lead to claims for damages.
- The BGH ruling of 19 December 2012 (Ref. VIII ZR 226/11): In this judgement, the Federal Supreme Court ruled that a clause in a contract that imposes a certain time limit on the customer to assert claims against the provider is invalid. This is to prevent customers from being prevented by such clauses from asserting their claims.
- The judgement of the OLG Munich of 29 January 2015 (case no. 29 U 2498/14): This case concerned a subscription trap in which the customer had fallen into a subscription without his knowledge. The court ruled that the provider should have informed the customer about the content of the contract and the costs and that the contract was therefore not concluded. The customer did not have to pay for the subscription.
Overall, it shows that consumer protection on the internet is an important issue that is taken seriously by both consumers and legislators. By observing basic safety precautions and reacting quickly in case of a rip-off, consumers can help minimise their own risk. At the same time, legislators should continue to work to improve consumer protection and hold perpetrators accountable.
Online rip-offs are a serious problem that affects more and more users. To protect yourself from being ripped off online, you should take basic safety precautions and be aware that free offers can often contain hidden costs.
If you have become a victim of a rip-off, you should act quickly and contact the provider.
If you want to take legal action against the rip-off, you should seek advice from an experienced lawyer to take the best possible steps. Ultimately, it is important to be aware that rip-offs on the internet cannot always be avoided.
However, by carefully checking the offers and reacting quickly in case of a rip-off, you can minimise financial damages and take legal action to defend yourself against the rip-off.