Has your teen bought their own car?

Anyone who does business with children and young people should know where the limits are. Between the ages of seven and 18, children have only limited legal capacity. That means: There are special rules.

Law

Anyone who does business with children and young people should know where the limits are. Between the ages of seven and 18, children have only limited legal capacity. That means: There are special rules.

Wolfgang Büser

Children and young people like to shop. Sweets from pocket money are not a problem. It looks different with larger purchases. The German Civil Code (BGB) sets clear limits. Under what conditions can children and young people do business? An overview.

Legal capacity

Legal capacity requires a minimum of judgment. The legislature denies children under the age of seven any ability to adequately assess the consequences of their actions for themselves and others. You are therefore incapable of doing business. Sales contracts with children under the age of seven, even if it is only an ice cream from the kiosk, are formally not valid.

From 7th to 18th birthday, children and young people have limited legal capacity. This gives them a certain amount of financial leeway. For example, they are allowed to spend their pocket money and the occasional donation from their grandmother - provided, however, that they use it for things that their parents have generally agreed to.

The development is between a 7 and a 17-year-old world, but in terms of their legal capacity they are equated by the legislator. Therefore, every minor, even if he already looks and acts like an adult, is a difficult to calculate business partner. Because according to the BGB, a legal transaction with a minor is only valid if it “brings a legal advantage” to the child or young person or if parents have agreed to the transaction in advance or subsequently approve it. If they don't, the deal is ineffective. Not only economic, but also educational reasons can be decisive.

An example: A 15-year-old buys a used moped. He financed it himself with the pocket money he saved. The purchase, a bargain, does not seem to bring him any disadvantage. If the parents say “no” because they think that driving a moped is too dangerous or another purchase is more important, the seller is forced to reverse the transaction.

All transactions that involve a further obligation are in principle "pending ineffective". A young person may only conclude a mobile phone contract with the consent of his parents.

Pocket money paragraph

From a purely legal point of view, anyone who does business with minors is walking on thin ice. For the little things in everyday life such as sweets and school supplies, one can assume that the parents have given their general consent. Even the bicycle dealer who has sold a 12-year-old a new bell can assume that the deal has come about effectively. This is where Paragraph 110 of the BGB comes into play, the so-called pocket money paragraph, which enables minors to effectively conclude smaller legal transactions that are customary for their age and which they pay from their own budget.

However, this does not provide absolute certainty. This is shown by the following example: A passionate photographer, 16 years old, buys a digital camera worth 300 euros. He pays 20 euros down, the rest he wants to pay off in installments from his pocket money. Even if the boy has the general consent of his parents to spend his pocket money on his hobby, the dealer cannot assume that this consent also applies to an installment purchase. Only when the minor perseveres and has paid the last installment would the contract be considered effective. In the meantime, it could be reversed by the parents.

Banking

The powers of young people in banking are also severely restricted. You may only open an account with the consent of your legal guardian. Account overdrafts are taboo, but EC cards “on a credit basis” are not. On the other hand, parents can expand their offspring's powers, for example by allowing them to deliver the local newspaper. Then the young person has unlimited legal capacity in certain areas. In this way, he can independently carry out all legal transactions that arise from the employment relationship. This also includes opening a salary account. He can also submit the notice of termination without the permission of the parents and look for a new job or apprenticeship on his own initiative, as long as the new employment relationship is similar to that for which the permit was originally granted.

to travel

Even if they go on trips with the consent of their parents, young people are legally competent within the budget given to them. Because with the consent to the trip, the parents also give a "general consent" to conclude all legal transactions necessary in the context of the trip - from buying tickets to booking hotels.

Online business

The old principle also applies to online transactions, explains the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer center: only those who are of legal age have unlimited legal capacity. Children under the age of seven are incapable of doing business. Children from the age of seven and young people can only buy something without the consent of their parents as part of the free use of pocket money. However, this is only possible without the consent of the parents if the goods can be paid for immediately with pocket money. When ordering on the Internet, however, it is regularly the case that the invoice is paid afterwards. "Therefore, parents must either consent in advance or approve the deal retrospectively when making purchases on the Internet," according to the consumer advice center. "If you do not grant approval, the sales contract is ineffective."