If you buy second-hand goods at an auction you do not have the benefit of the standard protections under the CONSUMER GUARANTEES ACT 1993 (see How to exercise your rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act).
However, you may be protected by the FAIR TRADING ACT 1986, which prohibits auctioneers from misleading bidders as to the goods for sale (see How to: Protection under the Fair Trading Act).
You will also be covered by the SALE OF GOODS ACT 1908, which requires the goods sold to be of merchantable quality. However, unlike the Consumer Guarantees Act, this obligation can be overridden by the particular terms of the sale; so auctioneers frequently avoid this obligation by stating that the goods are sold "as is, where is".
If you are planning to attend an auction you will have the opportunity to examine the goods before the auction. Goods are normally displayed for this purpose for several days beforehand.
The auctioneer must make the terms of sale clear to bidders before the bidding starts. If this is not done then a buyer may not be held to these terms. The terms may be in a catalogue or be up on signs at the auction house.
The terms of sale are likely to include matters such as:
Goods are sold by lot number; you bid on the lot that you wish to buy. The highest bid is normally accepted. If your bid is below the seller's reserve price but close to it, the auctioneer may ask you if you would like to make another offer to the seller.
If you make the final bid and the auctioneer accepts it, you have entered into a legal agreement to buy the goods.
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