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Is the crime of fraud committed by a person making sales through a well-know e-commerce site?

The case at hand – which the Court of Trento dealt with in its judgment handed down on May 5, 2012 – occurs frequently and consists in the purchaser buying goods in the internet through the classic system of online auctions, paying the agreed price and not receiving the goods as promised.

The Court held that the defendant – who had reassured the victim of the fraud that the transaction was bona fide – had committed the offence of fraud sanctioned by article 640 of the Criminal Code.

The Court held that the sale of goods through a well-known and serious e – commerce site (…), certainly misleads potential buyers as to the actual fraudulent intentions of those who offer for sale goods with no intention of delivering them, making it not just a breach of contract but also a fraudulent act punished by article 640 of the Italian Criminal Code.

The court, in deciding whether the tricks and deceit sanctioned by article 640 of the Italian Criminal Code had taken place, assessed the overall conduct of the seller, taking into account the particular manner in which this type of transaction had taken place via the Internet, consisting in the parties having no direct contact and not knowing the exact identity of the other contractor, as well as the fact that the buyer had to pay in advance the goods purchased at auction and then hope that the seller would deliver them.

This method of sale puts the buyer in a particularly weak situation, of which swindlers – whether they be serial or not – take advantage by selling goods that do not really have any intention of delivering (and of which at times they do not even dispose).

The fact that fraud is committed may be gleaned – in the light of the lack of direct contacts between the parties and the absence of witnesses – from the e-mails and phone calls exchanged between the parties, as well as from the overall conduct of the defendant, who simulates circumstances and conditions which are not true (and which have been artificially created for the purpose of misleading the buyer).

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