Even though the defendant announced to appeal the decision, the judgement created quite some legal uncertainty with regard to the use of payment methods on ecommerce websites:
- Does using "Sofortüberweisung" now pose a legal risk in Germany?
- What payment methods are "reasonable" and therefore in accordance with consumer protection law?
In the present case the Central German Consumer Protection Agency (Bundesverband der Verbraucherzentralen) demanded a cease-and-desist declaration from the German travelling portal start.de, which is part of Deutsche Bahn AG. The portal offered its customers payment by credit card (charging an extra amount of EUR 12.90) and "Sofortüberweisung" as the only free form of payment.
The Regional Court of Frankfurt ruled that "Sofortüberweisung" cannot be regarded as reasonable free payment method because by using it the consumer would have to disclose bank account access details to a third party and agree to the retrieval of account data. Further, the court held that as "Sofort Banking" requires the consumer to enter a PIN or TAN there is a significant data security risk and an increased possibility of abuse.
The court concluded that taking these risks cannot be reasonably expected of the consumer to avoid extra charges.
The reasoning comes a bit as a surprise. "Sofortüberweisung" already questioned the judgement by saying that after more than 100 million transactions there has not been a single PIN/TAN abuse case. Nevertheless, for now there is some risk involved when using "Sofortüberweisung" as the only free payment method.
On the upside "Sofortüberweisung" may still be used. The court expressly held that "Sofortüberweisung" still is a permissible payment method – as long as there is another "reasonable" free option for the consumer to pay: especially cash payment, EC card, or payment through transfer to a bank account.