13.04.2022 // The “place an order” button must indicate the payment obligation – ECJ Decision on the effectiveness of online orders
During the ruling of 7 April 2022, the ECJ (Case C-249/21) was taken a tribunal decision on the question of whether, in the case of an online hotel booking, the triggering of the payment obligation must result solely from the wording on the order button or whether the circumstances of the order may also play a role. This question had previously been submitted to the ECJ by the District Court.
In the proceedings before the Local Court on which the decision was based, a hotel owner had sued a consumer who had reserved several double rooms via the booking portal Booking.com. To do so, he clicked on a button with the inscription “Complete booking” to conclude his reservation. Since he did not show up on the specified date, the hotel owner claimed cancellation costs. However, the district court considered the accommodation contract required for these claims not to have been agreed, as the legal requirements for the button to conclude the booking had not been met.
European law provides that the button for concluding an online order must be labelled with the words “order with obligation to pay ” or with a corresponding unambiguous wording. Otherwise the contract is not valid. The German legislator has implemented this accordingly with § 312j para. 3 and para. 4 BGB.
The ECJ follows the assessment of the district court in its decision and requires that the button to conclude the order (here: “Complete booking”) must refer to the triggering of the obligation to pay. The words “order subject to payment” are only to be understood as examples. As long as the law did not contain any further concrete examples for other formulations, businesses were allowed to use alternative terms. However, it must be equally clear from the inscription on the button that the consumer enters into a payment obligation as soon as he clicks on the button.
Since German law does not contain any other suggested wording, the district court must now clarify the question of whether consumers could have been understanding other wording in a different way.