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Marketplace / Wild West

1. Introduction

Umecom acts as an intermediary in sales for third parties, mostly individuals (1). Umecom sells via the internet, including through the use of (its own) online catalogues. Products from these catalogues are forwarded to various online sales channels, one of which is Marktplaats.nl.

Having been active on this platform for many years now, the time has come to write something about the Wild West scenes that seem to be occurring more and more often on this platform. Marktplaats itself doesn't seem to have much to blame, although a stricter policy would probably help a lot of buyers and sellers.

2. Wild West

There seems to be a tendency for a growing group of Marktplaats users to communicate in a purely selfish manner. As long as there is a self-interest, they will continue to seek contact. If the interest - for whatever reason - disappears, the communication stops.

Even to the level that appointments have been made to pick things up, but nobody shows up. On inquiry, is no longer responded or simply said "I had already found something else. This disadvantages well-intentioned users on a large scale and therefore requires attention!

3. Quick Trade

Internet, has changed a lot in trade. The speed with which products come online, interested parties can be approached, there is communication about purchases and things are delivered, has grown exponentially. Delivery times of days or weeks have changed into 'same day delivery'.

Distance selling is easy/quick, low-threshold and often (more or less) anonymous. Together with the protection offered by the Distance Selling Act, this seems to have caused online shoppers to somewhat lose their sense of decency (etiquette, social skills, ...).

4. Used items

The processes involved in buying and selling used items are somewhat more complex. Not least because in most cases this takes place between private individuals and for the most part via the platform Marktplaats.nl, which is the subject of this article.

When selling used items on Marktplaats.nl, as a seller you seem to end up in one big grey area. We see - in this fast trade - that after publishing popular items, sometimes within an hour already 3-4 bids come in. We handle these bids according to our sales policy.

5. Value bid (no)

Our policy is: if we accept a bid, we want to come to a transaction with that bidder. Also, if afterwards the bid is even higher. Annoying is that a bid on Marktplaats.nl does not mean that the interested party wants to buy the item for that amount.

Marktplaats says "a bid is not binding and does not oblige you to buy or sell". Everywhere it is stated that placing a bid is only an invitation to enter into negotiations. This is why interested parties sometimes make several bids at once, for similar items.

6. Speed is of the essence

The saying 'you have to strike while the iron is hot' is more than apt for trade via Marktplaats.nl: when bids come in, sellers need to be able to respond quickly. If you can't, chances are the next interested party has already found an alternative.

We may conclude that this is contradictory and one-sided: interested parties can bid as much as they want, without consequences. However, if a seller accepts a bid, this does not give any certainty of concretion. At least and in practice, for the seller!

7. Legal / agreement?

Yes, for the time being it really seems to be the case: someone may make an offer, but withdraw it at any time. The law says: if an offer is accepted, a sales agreement has been made. In other words: if the seller accepts an offer, he/she is obliged to deliver for that price.

Because the non-binding nature of the contract seems to apply only to the buyer, it smacks of injustice to the seller: unequal rights that put him/her at a disadvantage because the necessary speed of action is seriously compromised. Legislation seems to fall short.

8. (Still) equal rights

The legal scholars will deny the injustice and say that the described formation of a purchase agreement is binding for both parties. In other words, it is Marktplaats's policy, but in that case the Wild West would shift from Marktplaats to the courts:

After all, if it really is the case that an accepted bid gives a binding contract, we could go to court about 10 times a month to hold 'buyers' to agreements. We wonder who is waiting for that. As the piece began, this seems a task for Marktplaats.

9. What then, is the question?

Very simple: set your own conditions. For some time now, we have had short and strong sales conditions (not too formal, airily formulated in our sales policy). We accept an offer, but under these conditions. To avoid unpleasant situations, we advise you to do the same (2).

Fortunately, we read in case law that judges are increasingly ruling in such cases, by applying nuances to the conventional rule 'offer + acceptance = contract' (based on traditional trade). As far as we are concerned, this should be recorded more often and better.

(1) You are buying from a private person. Umecom is an intermediary (conditions, art. 1) or merely takes care of communication and administration for the seller.
(2) You are free to use our sales policy or (also) accept a bid, under these conditions and refer to it.