Confirmation of online bookings: European Court of Justice clarifies what the consumer needs to know

When can a booking be considered as finalised when buying online? The European Court of Justice delivered an important judgement on the validity of contracts by electronic means on 7 April to clarify this issue.

The case was brought to the European Court of Justice by a local German court following a dispute between a hotelier and a consumer regarding the validity of a contract concluded via Booking.com. After a no-show, the consumer contested the payment of cancellation fees to the hotel despite having clicked on the ‘I’ll reserve’ button and entered personal details before clicking on a button labelled with the words ‘complete booking’.

The local court asked the Court of Justice whether the formulation ‘complete booking’ is a formulation ‘corresponding’ to the words ‘order with obligation to pay’: should only the words that appear on that button be taken into account, or should the overall circumstances of the ordering process also be taken into consideration?

The ECJ ruled that, according to Directive 2011/83, 1 where a distance contract is concluded by electronic means through an ordering process and entails an obligation on the part of the consumer to pay, the trader must, first provide that consumer directly before the placing of the order with the essential information relating to the contract and, secondly, explicitly inform that consumer that, in placing the order, he or she is bound by an obligation to pay.

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