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  1. #1
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    Can I sue an Ebay seller for breach of contract?

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? TX

    Hello all,

    A seller had an item posted on Ebay and I ended up submitting a 'Best Offer' and a message explaining why I thought it was a reasonable offer - long story short, the item [referred to as device/hardware throughout] requires an annual subscription to function and the seller was selling the item only at almost full retail cost. After exchanging a couple of messages, he agreed to sell, so I submitted a Best Offer which he accepted and I promptly paid that same night. Since then, I haven't heard anything from the seller and I've tried sending multiple messages and even requested his contact email from Ebay, which they supplied and upon calling him he never answered there either. This gets a little more complicated because I actually purchased a multi-year license for the item because (a) there was nothing at the time to lead me to believe he wasn't going to hold up his end of the bargain since we had been messaging without any issues and (b) there was a promotion where I could get a year for free but I had to purchase a multi-year license by July 29th. Because I don't have the item, I am now stuck with a non-refundable license (if he decides not to ship the item) and I'm out the year for free. So my question is, is it possible to file suit for the cost of a new device with a year license since that would make me whole? That would give me the hardware I would've had and the year I would've had for free, had he shipped the item on-time. I'm not fully sure if the multi-year license has started yet, so I wasn't looking to recover any part of that, but if the license has already started I would also seek the cost of a year license divided by the number of days it would take me to get all this sorted out as well. The seller is in California btw.

    I dropped a lot of money on the license and got a really good deal on the hardware, but without the device the license is useless and the seller has already cost me a free year which, conservatively, is almost a $450 value. The cost of hardware with a 1-Year license is around $1100-$1200 (conservatively).

    Lastly, how would I go about filing a suit when the seller is in a different state and all I have is their name and phone number? I apologize if any of this seems silly but the only law experience I have is an intro business law class in college so I really do appreciate any and all assistance.


  2. #2
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    Your lawsuit would be against the seller, not eBay, for this. You may well have to sue that seller in California. Note that in general what you are entitled to in a breach of contract case would be the amount it would take for you to get the deal you struck with the seller. So if you paid $1,000 for the item and then had to buy the item from the next lowest cost seller for $1,200, you would be entitled to sue the breaching seller for $1,200. Getting $1,200 from the breaching seller would give you the same end result as if he had followed through on the contract: you get the item for $1,000. In the language of contract law, this is known as expectancy damages.

    The additional amount you paid for the license is known as consequential damages. In general you donít get consequential damages in a contract case unless the breaching party knew at the time the contract was made that you would incur those costs. So unless you put the seller on notice when you were negotiating that deal that you were going to buy that license you likely will not get that cost included. Nor do you get the costs you may have to incur should you have to travel to California (airfare, hotel, etc) to litigate this case unless the contract itself provides for it.

    The above is very general info; what will happen in your particular case will depend on all the specific facts, most especially what the exact terms of the deal were.

    You will, of course, have to track down the seller to get him served in order to sue him. You need to track him down anyway because if you win it is your job to use the judgment you get to collect from him. The court does not do that for you. That means you have to figure out where he has assets or income you can attach to collect any judgment you get. If you cannot find assets or income to attach then your judgment is effectively worthless.

    If you used a credit card to pay for it then your best remedy here may be to simply seek the charge back for this from your credit card company.


  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by nwlce View Post
    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? TX

    Hello all,

    A seller had an item posted on Ebay and I ended up submitting a 'Best Offer' and a message explaining why I thought it was a reasonable offer - long story short, the item [referred to as device/hardware throughout] requires an annual subscription to function and the seller was selling the item only at almost full retail cost. After exchanging a couple of messages, he agreed to sell, so I submitted a Best Offer which he accepted and I promptly paid that same night. Since then, I haven't heard anything from the seller and I've tried sending multiple messages and even requested his contact email from Ebay, which they supplied and upon calling him he never answered there either. This gets a little more complicated because I actually purchased a multi-year license for the item because (a) there was nothing at the time to lead me to believe he wasn't going to hold up his end of the bargain since we had been messaging without any issues and (b) there was a promotion where I could get a year for free but I had to purchase a multi-year license by July 29th. Because I don't have the item, I am now stuck with a non-refundable license (if he decides not to ship the item) and I'm out the year for free. So my question is, is it possible to file suit for the cost of a new device with a year license since that would make me whole? That would give me the hardware I would've had and the year I would've had for free, had he shipped the item on-time. I'm not fully sure if the multi-year license has started yet, so I wasn't looking to recover any part of that, but if the license has already started I would also seek the cost of a year license divided by the number of days it would take me to get all this sorted out as well. The seller is in California btw.

    I dropped a lot of money on the license and got a really good deal on the hardware, but without the device the license is useless and the seller has already cost me a free year which, conservatively, is almost a $450 value. The cost of hardware with a 1-Year license is around $1100-$1200 (conservatively).

    Lastly, how would I go about filing a suit when the seller is in a different state and all I have is their name and phone number? I apologize if any of this seems silly but the only law experience I have is an intro business law class in college so I really do appreciate any and all assistance.
    You said "since then" and "if he decides not to ship the item."

    How long ago did you order the device? Is the delay in shipping unreasonably long or are you just doing a "what if" here, to see what you will need to do if the seller does not honor the agreement?


  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Taxing Matters View Post
    Your lawsuit would be against the seller, not eBay, for this. You may well have to sue that seller in California. Note that in general what you are entitled to in a breach of contract case would be the amount it would take for you to get the deal you struck with the seller. So if you paid $1,000 for the item and then had to buy the item from the next lowest cost seller for $1,200, you would be entitled to sue the breaching seller for $1,200. Getting $1,200 from the breaching seller would give you the same end result as if he had followed through on the contract: you get the item for $1,000. In the language of contract law, this is known as expectancy damages.

    The additional amount you paid for the license is known as consequential damages. In general you donít get consequential damages in a contract case unless the breaching party knew at the time the contract was made that you would incur those costs. So unless you put the seller on notice when you were negotiating that deal that you were going to buy that license you likely will not get that cost included. Nor do you get the costs you may have to incur should you have to travel to California (airfare, hotel, etc) to litigate this case unless the contract itself provides for it.

    The above is very general info; what will happen in your particular case will depend on all the specific facts, most especially what the exact terms of the deal were.

    You will, of course, have to track down the seller to get him served in order to sue him. You need to track him down anyway because if you win it is your job to use the judgment you get to collect from him. The court does not do that for you. That means you have to figure out where he has assets or income you can attach to collect any judgment you get. If you cannot find assets or income to attach then your judgment is effectively worthless.

    If you used a credit card to pay for it then your best remedy here may be to simply seek the charge back for this from your credit card company.
    So I did not explicitly tell the seller that I had a deadline on the license. This sell happened on Tuesday (7/25) and I paid immediately and then I emailed him and asked him for the S/N of the device so I could tie it to the license, which I stated I was about to start looking for (essentially, I would lose a couple of days on the license waiting to actually receive the item, but I figured if I was getting a year for free this wasn't going to be a dramatic loss). On the 28th, I emailed him and asked for tracking info because it had not yet been updated and on the 29th I explained that I had bought a license so if he could get back to me, I would greatly appreciate it (as this was the last day of the free year promotion, so I could have still tied the S/N of the device to the license and gotten the free year without physically having the device in my possession at the very least -- or at least that was my thinking). Unfortunately, you cannot register the license to a device without the serial number (I tried).

    The terms of the sale were basically it was a best offer. I closed that night. His stated handling time was 3 days which would've been by 7/28 and the last message I got from him was on 7/25 prior to me paying. No refund has been made nor has the order been cancelled and he is not responding to messages or phone calls (I got his number from Ebay and he did not pick up either time). The seller was selling the device as "unclaimed" which means he knew (I say that remembering how many times I watch Judge Judy and she says "don't tell me what he knew" hahaha) it required a license to operate and he was opting to remove his license from the hardware to allow someone else to purchase and claim it.


  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by quincy View Post
    You said "since then" and "if he decides not to ship the item."

    How long ago did you order the device? Is the delay in shipping unreasonably long or are you just doing a "what if" here, to see what you will need to do if the seller does not honor the agreement?
    So technically, he should've shipped the device by the 28th and Ebay states I should have received it by August 3rd (I can't open a case against him until then, basically); However, he could have still messaged me the serial number anytime between 7/25 and 7/29 or told me that he changed his mind or issued a refund anytime between 7/25 and now and he has yet to do any of the above. That's what irks me is that I told the guy I was going to be looking for a license for it multiple times (and even without that it's assumed you're going to get one for it because the device is literally a brick without one -- its cloud-based so if theres not an active license, it just becomes disabled). The hardest part is that I can't get Ebay to give me the guy's address and I can't seem to find a way to locate it on my own.


  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by nwlce View Post
    So technically, he should've shipped the device by the 28th and Ebay states I should have received it by August 3rd (I can't open a case against him until then, basically); However, he could have still messaged me the serial number anytime between 7/25 and 7/29 or told me that he changed his mind or issued a refund anytime between 7/25 and now and he has yet to do any of the above. That's what irks me is that I told the guy I was going to be looking for a license for it multiple times (and even without that it's assumed you're going to get one for it because the device is literally a brick without one -- its cloud-based so if theres not an active license, it just becomes disabled). The hardest part is that I can't get Ebay to give me the guy's address and I can't seem to find a way to locate it on my own.
    Thanks for answering my questions, nwlce.

    I don't see that you need to worry about delivery until August 3rd. If the package containing the device hasn't arrived by then, that is the time to start getting concerned.


    Last edited by quincy; 07-30-2017 at 10:36 PM.
  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by quincy View Post
    Thanks for answering my questions, nwlce.

    I don't see that you need to worry about delivery until August 3rd. If the package containing the device hasn't arrived by then, that is the time to start getting concerned.
    Thanks everyone! Just so you know what happened, he ended up emailing me about 2-3 weeks after the item was supposed to arrive and telling me that he was sick and he was very apologetic and ended up dropping the item off that day (or the next day) with expedited shipping, so all was well.


  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by nwlce View Post
    Thanks everyone! Just so you know what happened, he ended up emailing me about 2-3 weeks after the item was supposed to arrive and telling me that he was sick and he was very apologetic and ended up dropping the item off that day (or the next day) with expedited shipping, so all was well.
    It is nice to hear you were dealing with an honest seller and that your story has a happy ending.

    Thank you for the update, nwice.


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