Paying for online purchases by invoice is popular with customers. You get the goods delivered, you can try on the clothes or check the functionality of electronic devices and send them back if necessary – without having paid a cent for it. But what sounds so nice for the customer is associated with a high risk for the retailer. Because time and again, customers order the goods but cannot pay the bill or, in the context of fraud cases, do not want to. In order to arm themselves against such situations, corporations carry out a credit check.

    Not everyone can pay by invoice

    However, how this check is carried out and which customer data is used for this varies from country and company. At Zalando, for example, the reliability of a customer is checked in two steps: the risk and credit check. With the former, the group is concerned with protecting itself and the user “from misuse” of data “particularly through fraudulent orders”, as stated in the data protection guidelines. The credit check, on the other hand, serves to prevent “payment defaults[n]”.

    Information on previous “payment behavior” as well as personal customer data such as “last name, first name, delivery and billing address, e-mail address [und] Date of birth”. As part of the credit check, the personal data is then sent to external credit agencies such as SCHUFA or Boniversum in order to obtain credit data “in the form of score values”.

    If the check is positive, the customer can choose the desired payment method from the full selection. If, on the other hand, it is negative and the group has a suspicion of “attempted fraud” – such as on the basis of a “suspicious IP address”, an “unknown or suspicious device”.[es]” or because you simply live in a “region with an increased risk of fraud” – then the payment option “on account” is not displayed and the account may even be blocked.

    Are corporations always allowed to pass on customer information?

    Other companies such as the payment services PayPal or Klarna also carry out such credit checks. At Klarna, the credit check is already carried out when you “apply for a Klarna Card or a one-time card”. According to data protection regulations, the “credit status” is “continuously” updated. Paypal also allows itself to forward personal data to external credit agencies “to assess the risk of late payment”. How much information may be transmitted is determined by the legal framework of the respective country. However, this is often done without the customer agreeing or even noticing.

    Because the process takes place within a few seconds. If a customer has selected goods in the online shop and placed them in their digital shopping cart, they can then select the desired payment option. If he decides to “purchase on account”, the credit check is carried out automatically. An “express consent of the customer” is not required for this, “if the retailer has an obligation to perform in advance (such as when purchasing on account),” writes the legal assistant Dr. Bea Brünen in an article on the portal of the It-Recht-Kanzlei Munich.


    This practice is widespread and yet not well known. Because many online retailers do not like to talk about it. When asked by the news portal SPIEGEL, Amazon referred “tightly to its data protection declaration”. Other questions that are not clarified within the framework of the data protection regulations “are not answered by the group,” as SPIEGEL continues. The online retailer was “unfortunately” unable to comment on the situation either.

    If you do not want a credit check to be carried out with your personal data, you can simply select alternative payment methods. Because when paying by direct debit, advance payment or credit card, no check is carried out on payment reliability – at least not without the consent of the customer.

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