I found an item for sale online that has a replacement cost of about $50,000.00. The seller agreed by email to sell it to me at $2000.00 The seller now tells me they got a higher offer and will sell it to someone else. What recourse do I have?
1 Answer from Attorneys
What the heck are you buying online for this amount of money? Are you sure its not some type of scam?
Assuming that this is legitimate, do you have (a) a writing; (b) signed by the seller; (c) offering to sell you the item at the specified price; and (d) a written acceptance by you.
The law has not always kept up with technology and emails back and forth may or may not establish a contract. For an item of this magnitude, there should be a formal agreement. Also, where exactly is the seller located?
The evidence that you have of an agreement and the location of the seller will dictate what you do and your remedies. Assuming that this is someone in the US, you can either sue for specific performance; restoration of any monies that you put down (called status quo or reliance damages); or the difference in value between you getting another identical item and the price that the seller offered to sell it to you (called expectation damages). Example: you had a deal to buy a widget for $2,000. Seller will not sell to you so you go and get one from someone else for $50,000. Your damages are about $48,000.
If the seller is located overseas - this sounds more and more like a scam. If it is, you thank heaven that you did not make a mistake. Even if it isn't, it is very cumbersome to sue someone from another country if the seller has no property in the United States and you are not likely to get anything back anyway. If you have to go to the foreign country to sue, your rights might be determined in accord with foreign law and you would have to talk to a lawyer in that country. If you paid no money, I would forget it as its not worth the expense to pursue.
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