Your Questions & Comments

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Auctioneer Bidding… Is it Legal?
Auction House Bidding & Selling
Auctioneer/Seller Withdraws an Item with Bids. Is It Legal?

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1,169 Responses to Your Questions & Comments

  1. Barb Norton says:

    My father & mother-in-law have hired a auction company to sell their collectibles. (In Wisconsin). The auction company has visited their home and taken pictures of the items for sale. In the pictures are several items shown as they were displayed ie.. 30 baseball cards on a table & several albums, cup & saucers–cookie jars on shelving, nascar-hotwheels cars displayed on a table, and porcelain dolls in a wall cabinet etc..). As of this post, there were four items that shouldn’t have been pictured for the auction. The auction company was notified about removing the items. They said the items can’t be removed from the sale. The items have been shown on their auction website. (They have advertised the sale, no newspaper or magazine advertising yet. Newspaper and magazine advertising will happen one week before the sale). It isn’t an on-line auction, the sale will take place over two days at a reception hall. If the family would like the items back, a family member can bid on them and not have to pay at the closing. The auction company has said they have had inquiries from Alabama, New Mexico, and Montana about the auction. They said they could be sued by anyone who comes from such a distance and the items aren’t here.The auction will take place 8/15/17. Is it legit/lawful in Wisconsin that the family can’t remove any items. We were giving the auction company plenty of notice.

    • Auction Law says:

      There appears to be several issues here.
      1. There are two types of auctions, “with reserve” and “absolute,” which would determine when a seller may withdraw an item from the auction.
      In an auction “with reserve”, the seller may withdraw any item prior to the call of “sold.”
      In an “absolute” auction, the seller may withdraw any item prior to calling for bids.
      Depending on your contract with the auctioneer, there may be a penalty fee for withdrawal, but it’s your stuff and you have the right to withdraw anything you want.

      2. As far as the seller bidding on the items. This implies that this is an auction “with reserve.” Only at an auction with reserves is a seller allowed to bid on their items, BUT only if the auctioneer gives notice to the bidders that the seller is allowed to bid.

      I understand the apprehension of the auction company not wanting to pull items after advertising has already begun and potential bidders inquiring about those items. However, if the seller is allowed to bid and there is really no intent to sell, then this could be considered unethical and possibly illegal under fair trade laws (i.e. bait and switch). It would be unfair to those in attendance – and especially to those traveling great distances – to show up with the intention of buying, only to have the seller outbid them because they decided to keep the items. So, it would be better to remove the items now, even if a few people have already inquired. It’s likely that these people will have plenty of time to notice the items have been removed… and will probably call again to find out why and save them a trip, unless they were also interested in other items. That’s the fairest option for all involved.

  2. Barb Norton says:

    Thank you very much

  3. Dennis Karam says:

    I was a winning bidder of an an auction for a piece of equipment. There was no reserve price on the auction and upon winning the item I was sent an email to make a bank transfer and told I have one week to remove items. I proceeded the drive down the California which is a 20 hour drive to pick up the item and pay for it. 5 hours into my drive I receive an email telling me that there was a clerical error and that I am no longer the winning bidder of the item. Can the auction house do this. The name of the auctioneer is Tac down in Southern California

    • Auction Law says:

      Payment and pickup terms are two different things. Typically, payment is due at the conclusion of the auction and/or within a particular period. Had you paid immediately, you might have had a stronger claim… although that doesn’t mean you don’t have a claim to the goods.

      Normally, once that hammer falls, you are considered the high-bidder. The problem with online platforms, especially when there is also a live component, is that the online software may deem you to be the high bidder, but the auctioneer may have sold it to a live bidder.

      Of course, there may be more to this story and I am only suggesting possible situations. My only recommendation is to contact an attorney to investigate the matter and determine if you might have a case or not.

  4. Barb Norton says:

    My 74 yr old father & 72 yr old mother-in-law two day auction took place last week.

    Day 1: My mother-in-law had several cup and saucers (over 20). She asked that the cups/saucers not be sold for less than $15.00 each. Auctioneer said no problem. The first day of sale, they put six cups in a cardboard flat. A flat was sold for $6.00, not $6.00 each, but $6.00 for all in the flat. A handler dropped a flat of cups and all were broke. The company comped them $6.00, the sale price for one flat. When questioned afterwards about what happened to the $15.00+, the auctioneer said a sale was needed. The entire first day felt like a private auction for the loyal auctioneer company followers/regulars.

    Auction company was told about an item that was worth a minimum $200.00 plus. Item was to be placed in display case on the second day of the auction. Item was specially wrapped & labeled rare. Item was placed in a plastic tote and purposely placed on the bottom. The tote was labeled “day 2” sale. The item was sold on the first day of the auction in a shoe box with other items for $6.00. Scanning the auction pictures taken that day, the item can be seen. The family was upset and asked what can be done, possibly a deduction on labor fees for set up, or reduction of moving truck rental fees. Basically, the auction company said oops, sorry. This seems like an inside job by an employee they hired for the unpacking process. Yes company billed for unpacking and placing the items on tables, it was written in the contract.

    The two day auction took place at a old high school gymnasium. The night before the second day of the auction, we drove past the gym and saw people entering & leaving. When we went inside, auction company was having private showings. They didn’t appear too happy that we were there. We were never told this was taking place. Is this normal practice?

    Auction took place in Wisconsin. Father & mother-in-law are Wisconsin residents. Auction company cut two day check on the last day of auction. (Auction company had 15% of sale total, plus $12.00 hour labor, plus gymnasium rental, and the moving truck fees.) There was never any pre-auction announcement of reserve or absolute. It seemed like a hybrid that worked for them. They told the in-laws whatever they wanted to keep, to let them know. They didn’t want the people attending thinking the family was bidding. What is the proper way to complain and question this company? Is there an auction board to notify, contact local law enforcement, or is the family been taken advantage of? Are there any options?

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