Elderly Brit ordered to pay £12,000 for cancelling his own eBay auction

A British pensioner has been ordered to pay almost £12,000 to a German man after an eBay mishap.

72-year-old Mike Godden put a 1970s analogue tape recorder up for auction on eBay, expecting a simple sale of the vintage kit.

Although bids started at 99p, offers soon reached £1,000 because of the Studer A80 tape recorder's iconic history, used by music legends such as Pink Floyd, The Beatles.

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But by the time bids hit £1,380, Mike had realised the tape recorder was faulty, and promptly cancelled the auction, despite it having eight days left to run.

The winning bidder at the time – an unnamed German man – was outraged, insisting his successful bid made him the owner of the unit.

The bidder demanded via online message that the tape recorder be shipped to him, but Godden disregarded the claims, believing he was able to end the auction due to eBay rules.

eBay rules state that sellers can cancel auctions before their natural end if the item is damaged, but the German bidder commanded Mike pay for the cost of an equivalent tape recorder.

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When the pensioner refused, the disgruntled man took the case to court.

He told Mike they would “meet at the courthouse in Frankfurt” – and the case was tried by the German Regional Court.

“It’s just crazy. This should have never gone to court,” commented Mike.

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The pair ended up meeting virtually, as Mike joined the hearing online, expecting a fair trial.

However, Mike was probably not expecting to lose the case when the court ruled under the Rome I Regulation, where EU laws overrode the eBay procedures.

The 1980 contract law, adopted by the EU, made the eBay bid binding and therefore saw EU law surpass eBay's policies.

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Mike was instructed to pay £7,551 – a sum that rose to £11,600 after the German buyer's legal fees and the cost of the bailiffs that visited Mike in Southampton, Hampshire to claim the cash.

The court commented, “Both parties had made binding declarations of intention at the time the auction was aborted.”

But Mike wants eBay to reimburse him for his losses.

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The pensioner commented, “Losing the money is painful enough. It’s left me in quite a bit of debt. It’s the fact I haven’t done anything wrong in the beginning, and yet he was able to take me to court.”

A spokesman for eBay said: “We discourage sellers from ending auctions early, as listing an item and accepting bids from potential buyers creates a contractual obligation to sell the item.

“However, we understand sellers may occasionally need to cancel an auction and there are legitimate reasons for them to do so, including if the item is lost or broken. If they do end an auction early, sellers need to make sure they have proof of a legitimate reason.”

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