What to do if I went to a coin store and paid for silver coins that were not in stock and waited for months but now the owner is refusing to reimburse me?

The business stated that they will have the product in 1 week; it has been 3 months. Now the owner is refusing to give my money back. The owner keeps asking to extend time so he can get the coin. Is this in anyway legal? Can a business just steal someone’s money and not be a criminal offense. Money that is involved is 3k for one party and 3k for another party.

Asked on October 6, 2014 under Business Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

No, a business may NOT "just steal someone's money"; doing so is a crime. Where there is a grey area is if there was no written agreement specifying that a product would be provided by a certain time or that time is "of the essence," then how much time must the customer give the business to procure the product? The law does not provide a firm, black-and-white answer, and it will generally depend on the norms of that industry and the intentions of the parties (the customer and business) at the time they began transacting business, at least to the extent such norms or such intentions can be determined. The above said, three months would normally be too long, and the business should return the money at this point.

This is best treated however, as a civil matter, not a criminal one, since for it to be a crime, there must be a criminal intent--i.e. an intention to steal the money--and not just an aggressive but good faith "business" intention to fulfill the customer's order and not give up the sale, even if it takes longer than hoped for.  (Also, the criminal law is designed to punish criminals, not necessarily to get people their money back.) Therefore, your best recourse is to file a lawsuit for the return of the money.


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