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consumers
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Auctions 

What is an auction? 

An auction usually is a public sale of goods where:

  • People bid for the goods, can see other peoples' bids and can re-bid if another person has made a higher bid.
  • The goods are sold to the person who makes the highest bid.
  • The seller is not necessarily a private individual or selling in the course of a business.
  • Usually, the only statutory (or implied) warranty is that the goods must be sold with 'clear title'.

Some auction websites also offer the opportunity to buy goods at a price pre-determined by the seller (eg. eBay's "Buy it now" option). Buying at a pre-determined price is not an auction.

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Consumer rights 

It is a case of ‘buyer beware’ as goods bought at auction are not covered by statutory warranties.

Therefore, before buying at auction, consumers should ensure that they have done some homework, checked the quality of the goods and are aware of the average market value of the goods, as they may not be able to change their mind once their bid is accepted. 

In many cases, the seller of the goods is a private individual. As the seller is not in business, Fair Trading laws may not apply and any dispute about the goods is a civil matter and may be determined by the local courts.

Where the seller is in the business of selling those goods, and the goods are purchased prior to auction, consumers may have the same rights and remedies available to them as if they had purchased the goods through a store.

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Obligations of sellers and auctioneers 

The seller has an obligation to provide ‘clear title’ to the goods. This means that the goods must be free of any debt, charges or mortgages, ie. free from any other person having a claim to the goods, unless disclosed or known to you before you purchase the goods.

Some auctions may be covered by specific legislation, including auctions of motor vehicles and real estate.

The auctioneer must not make misleading or deceptive representations about the goods.

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Resolving disputes 

As outlined above, NSW Fair Trading is unable to assist in most disputes arising from a purchase at auction. Complaints can be lodged with Fair Trading where:

  • the goods were purchased by negotiation prior to the auction and the seller is in the business of selling those types of goods
  • the seller has not provided ‘clear title’, or
  • the auctioneer has misrepresented the goods.

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Online auctions 

For more information please refer to the Online auctions page.

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Real estate auctions 

For more information on real estate auctions please refer to the following:

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Motor vehicle auctions 

For more information on motor vehicle auctions please refer to Where to buy a car web page.

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