Shabbat Parashat Devarim| 5763
Ona’ah (Mispricing) - Part II - Different Levels of Mispricing
The basic numerical rule regarding ona’ah is stated by Rava in Bava Metzia 50b. If the level of mispricing is less than one sixth, the sale stands as is. If it is greater than a sixth, the entire sale is void, and the money and object are returned to the original owners. If the mispricing is a sixth, then the sale stands, but money changes hands until the amount paid conforms to the proper one. Although the possibility that the price will be off by exactly a sixth seems remote, it should be noted that there are different ways of calculating a sixth. The gap between these calculations allows for a certain range of prices where the law of returning the ona’ah and keeping the sale applies (see Bava Metzia 49b; Choshen Mishpat 227:2 for details).
The reason that mispricing of less than a sixth brings on no practical consequences is that there is a presumed, tacit mechila (relinquishing of rights) by the one who was cheated if the amount was so small (Rambam, Mechira 12:3). A crucial question is whether it is permitted to misprice by this not so significant amount of money or whether, despite the mechila, the aveira of ona’ah applies. The Rosh (Bava Metziya IV:20) and Shulchan Aruch (CM 227:6) leave this as an open question, with the Rosh urging the G-d fearing to avoid such inaccuracies, specifically if one side is aware of the real price and the other is not.
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