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Emails being hacked - level of precautions

The managing director of a company bought a car for 13,500 euros over the phone and arranged for the invoice to be sent by e-mail. He received two emails in a row with the same bill, but the second one had a different account in the footer. This account was held by a private individual, a hacker. Although this second e-mail contained conspicuous linguistic errors and – unlike on the phone – used his surname, the man paid EUR 13,500 to the foreign account. The seller, on the other hand, waited in vain for his money. It turned out that the second email did not come from the car dealer, but from a hacker. He had hacked the seller's e-mail account and, like in the case of other customers, exchanged the bank details on the invoice.

The seller initially unsuccessfully sued the buyer before the Mosbach Regional Court for payment of the purchase price, but was successful in the appeal instance before the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court.

The court: Since the contractual partners had not discussed the mutual security precautions, it is questionable what obligations exist when sending e-mails in business transactions. There is no obligation on the car dealer to take special precautions against his emails being hacked.

OLG Karlsruhe, Judgment of 07/27/2023 - 19 U 83/22

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