The seller offered the fake Vertu phone on the online sales platform at a starting price of €1 with the following description:
"Hello to all Vertu lovers – you can bid for a nearly new mobile phone (was only unpacked to try it out). Has a few light marks of being used (which I mention for the sake of honesty). I bought 2 and have chosen the yellow golden one ... You also get a case, headphones and spare battery. Private sale, so no returns. Have fun bidding."
The successful bidder took the seller to court afterwards because it was not an original Vertu, and demanded €23,000 in damages – his estimation of the difference to for a real Vertu.
A court in Saarbrücken, western Germany, threw his demand, saying the man should have realised from the auction's low starting price that the phone was not the genuine article.
But Germany's Federal Court of Justice (BGH) overturned the ruling. "The starting price has no bearing on the value of the offer," Judge Wolfgang Ball said in a ruling released on Wednesday. "A low starting price lowers the cost of offering and arouses interest."
The Saarbrücken court now has to reconsider its verdict and decide whether the circumstances of the sale showed that the buyer believed he had bought an original Vertu.
Genuine Vertu mobile phones are handmade in the UK, using various precious materials including gold, platinum, diamonds and sapphires – the standard models range in price from €4,000 to €80,000.