Civil law, case II Ca 26/11

May 9th, 2011, Tomasz Rychlicki

Andrzej J., a Polish farmer, ordered his 17-year-old son to put up for sale a tractor. He told him to use, the most popular Polish auction website. It was one of the first auctions on the Internet for both of them. However, his son, who started the action, did not specify a minimum selling price. The auction was attended by six interested parties. The highest offer of 11.000 PLN bid by Adam S., let him to win the auction. Andrzej J. refused to hand over the vehicle, claiming that the winning price was too low. He argued that his son is minor and although he received his father’s command, he exceeded the scope of the mandate, because despite the clear indication, he did not select in the options, the minimum price that should be set to 38.000 PLN (it was set at the last day of the auction at the suggestion of the mother). Andrzej J. claimed that he was not aware that such transaction can be concluded below the minimum price, and he hadn’t the possibility of withdrawing the offer. He argued that he acted under the influence of the error in fact, therefore, he should be released from the conclusion of the agreement.

The District Court in Łuków held that the claim for a vehicle at the price of 11.000 is fully justified. The Court pointed to the wording of Article 70¹ of the Civil Code.

Article 701. § 1. A contract may be concluded by means of an auction or tendering.
§ 2. An announcement of an auction or tendering shall specify the time, place, object and terms of the auction or the tendering, or to indicate how such terms are available.
§ 3. The announcement and the terms of the auction or the tendering may be changed or revoked only when it has been stipulated in their contents.
§ 4. Since the moment of making the terms available and making the bid respectively by an organizer and the bidder according to the announcement of the auction or tendering, they shall proceed in accordance with the provisions of the announcement, likewise the provisions of the terms of auction or the tendering.

In this case, the terms for auctions and the procedures for the conclusion were established by Allegro in its Terms of Service, which were both accepted by the seller and the buyer. According to the terms of Allegro, the seller can make changes to the content of the auction only in three minutes after the auction begins. The Court ruled that the son of Andrzej J. did not act as his proxy, but as a messenger, whose role was purely technical, he had to enter some data on an auction website, therefore he could not be regarded as representative based on provisions of the Polish Civil Code.

Article 95. § 1. Barring the exceptions specified in statutory law or resulting from the character of a given act in law, an act in law may be performed through a representative.
§ 2. An act in law performed by a representative within the limits of the authorization shall have direct effects for the person represented.

Article 96. The authorization to act on behalf of another person may be based on statutory law (statutory representation) or on the declaration by the person represented (power of attorney).

The District Court in Lublin in its judgment case file II Ca 26/11 upheld a lower court’s judgment. See also “Civil law, case I ACa 295/10“.