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I recently bought a product on eBay, that turned out to have been directly bought from the manufacturer with stolen credit card info. A couple months after the purchase, the hardware, which "calls home" on startup, started displaying a message that read "product disabled as identified as potentially stolen".

I just checked the terms of sale:

  1. ANTI-FRAUD ... XXX reserves the right to make contact using details provided, and lock both XXX accounts and hardware.

Is this even legal ? This is really the question I'm asking (can't be too specific on stackexchange), but I'd like to provide more context with respect of my own case:

The company failed to implement antifraud protection on their website which is often just one optional line of code away (i'm a payment systems programmer). The company accepts payments from Visa, MasterCard, AmericanExpress and Paypal. They all propose anti-fraud filters and offer a zero-liability to the card owner in case of theft. This means the merchant (which turns out to be the company as well in this case) is fully responsible for handling the chargeback the financial institution imposes on the transaction (even if the goods have been sent). In other words (correct me if I'm wrong), the law consider the loss is the value of the goods sent, i.e. that it is not money theft per se, but theft of goods. Disabling the product seems to me like a way to escape their responsibility.

Also, for reasons that are too long to explain, I sent back the disabled product to get a refund (was promised so), but now the company, which probably did not want to accept a stolen product to refund/repair/re-enable it but did so in the confusion of its shitty many-people-for-one-request kind of support is just silent and I'm still waiting for my refund.

What kind of specific threats can I do to force them to perform this refund ? To me the ownership situation (they now own the product they disabled) shows that the theft has factually been transferred onto me, for an error they committed and that I would not have done (it's my job).

What kind of offices/chamber of commerce should I threaten them to reach out to, knowing the company is in Australia and I'm European customer.

  • 2
    Have you disputed this charge with your bank? – Ron Beyer Jul 4 '18 at 19:13
  • Not yet, I reserve that as my last move. – Zorro Jul 5 '18 at 4:34
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If the product was fraudulently obtained then the seller had no 'title' or right to sell it therefore you (the buyer) could not gain title when you bought it even though you bought it in good faith. However, in at least some European jurisdictions (I'd be surprised if it weren't all European jurisdictions) you have a right to a refund or replacement from the seller.

If the seller refuses or remains silent then I would expect you to be covered by the eBay Money Back Guarantee policy (the media suggests they tend to err on the side of the buyer). If that fails then I hope you're in a jurisdiction that protects payments made by debit and credit cards.

As for the disabling of the product, on the face of it that might be a computer misuse offence (e.g. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1990/18/section/3) - although I don't know whether such a thing has been tested.

  • This is indeed the case. I'm from France and here is what the law says (source). 1) "recel" (receiving stolen goods) does not concern the person who buys a second hand good in good faith, i.e. without knowing the good was stolen. 2) if less than 3 years have elapsed between the theft and the discovery of the theft, the rightful owner can ask the good-faith buyer to restitue the object but the former must reimburse the latter. – Zorro Jul 6 '18 at 9:24
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The person getting the item by fraud didn't get any ownership. Therefore when you bought it, you didn't get ownership either. It's still the company's property, and they can do with it what they like (within reason, they wouldn't be allowed to make it blow up in your face). If you sent back the item, good on you, because the item is now with its rightful owner.

If you don't like it, you can sue the person who sold the item to you.

  • Okay I get it, seems logical, thanks for the reply. However I still was promised a refund. I'm not the only one in that situation, somebody else on a subreddit (same company, same product) shared a similar story: this person did not sent the product back but paypaled the CEO almost the original price of the product so that the company re-enables the product. They just ghosted the buyer after that, never replied to any further email and did not re-enable the product. – Zorro Jul 4 '18 at 22:53
  • Another aspect I find shady is the "call-home" function which actually does nothing purposeful and that is linked to an "account", both legally (it's in the sale terms) and technically (you have to register with an email), but it is linked to absolutely nothing in terms of user experience. Can such a keyhole (peeing and locking) be called an account ? Note that I did not agree to these terms either. – Zorro Jul 4 '18 at 22:58
  • @Zorro The terms would have been agreed to by the first buyer. – ohwilleke Jul 4 '18 at 23:22
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    I'm not sure it's so clear that the OP has no ownership. The circumstances sound like a bona fide purchaser for value situation. – bdb484 Jul 5 '18 at 3:33
  • A bona fide buyer of stolen goods owns nothing. – gnasher729 Jul 6 '18 at 22:58

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