The case is tricky: fraudsters resell a car that doesn’t even belong to them. The original owner wants the car back from the buyer – after paying a lot of money for it. And now?
Anyone who falls for a scam when buying a used car and unsuspectingly buys someone else’s car has a good chance of still being able to keep the car. If the original owner, who was also defrauded, later turns up and wants to get their car back, they face significantly higher hurdles. He must be able to prove that the new owner was not “good faith” in the purchase, how Federal Court of Justice (BGH) decided on Friday. This also applies when there is a dispute as to whether the vehicle registration document has been forged.
“In good faith” is a term from the German Civil Code (BGB). There is actually a separate paragraph (§ 932) dedicated to the complex situation. According to this, “the person who acquires becomes the owner even if the thing does not belong to the seller” – with one condition: he must be “in good faith”. On the other hand, this is not the case “if he knows or is grossly negligent in not knowing that the thing does not belong to the seller.”
It simply means: you shouldn’t let the car start completely naively. According to previous BGH decisions, when buying a used car, for example, it should be a matter of course that you are shown the vehicle’s registration document. If you don’t even pay attention to this, don’t be surprised if you fall for scammers.
And one more limitation: “acquisition in good faith” does not include “if the item was stolen from the owner, lost or otherwise lost.”
Who is the rightful owner?
But that was not the case here. A car dealership whose CEO was later investigated for fraud in more than 100 cases had Mercedes rented quite regularly, that is, rented for a certain period of time. I only got the leasing company from Mercedes-Benz did not return the car: the car dealership sold it to an unsuspecting car dealer for 30,800 euros. Italy further on.
The big question for the top civil judges in Karlsruhe: Who is the rightful owner? This Stuttgart District Court had assigned a Mercedes to a leasing company. This Superior Court of the District (OLG), on the other hand, said: the car belongs to the buyer.
That’s how he sees it now BGH, as the chairperson of the hearing, Bettina Brückner, explained after the verdict was announced. What actually sticks here is the vehicle registration document, or – as it is officially called today – part II of the registration certificate. The man who took the car to the Italian dealer says he was presented with a registration certificate that looked genuine. The original Mercedes-Benz leasing company disputes this. So the statement contradicts…