When you buy secondhand goods at an auction, you may not be able to get your money back if you find out later that the goods are faulty. You have rights when you buy new goods at an auction.

Buying secondhand goods at an auction

You should always check the auction's conditions of sale which should be prominently displayed on the property where the auction is taking place or in the sale catalogue. As auctions are treated as "trade sales", it is very important to know the auction's policy on secondhand goods.

For example, the conditions of sale often include words such as "we are not responsible for the authenticity or condition of any item".

However, if you buy second-hand goods at an auction that consumers cannot take part in person, for example from a trader via an online auction, then you still have the protection offered by the Sale of Goods Act 1979.

Auctioneers must not falsely describe or misrepresent goods.

Buying new goods at an auction

Your consumer rights under the Sale of Goods Act when are protected when you buy new goods at an auction.

Find out more about your consumer rights when buying goods and services.

Tips when you go to an auction

If you've never been to an auction before, it's always a good idea to go along and see what happens before you bid at your first auction. When you go again and plan to bid, you should:

  • read and understand the auction's conditions of sale before you bid
  • be careful when an auctioneer describes an item as "AF" (as found) or "SAS" (sold as seen) - this could be a warning that there is something wrong with the item
  • examine the item very closely before you bid
  • decide on the maximum amount you're prepared to bid and keep to this budget
  • be aware that fees might be added to your bid as some auctions charge additional fees to which VAT applies
  • remember that you can't change your mind after the auctioneer's hammer falls

If you have a complaint about an auction

Most auction houses are members of trade bodies such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the National Association of Valuers and Auctioneers (NAVA) or the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers (IPAV).

Members will usually display the organisation's logo on their website or documents.

If you aren't satisfied with the service you got at an auction, complain first to the auction house. Then, if the complaint is not resolved to your satisfaction, you should contact any trade body they claim to be a member of, as the trade body will usually offer some form of arbitration service.

If you require advice about the auctions in general, contact Consumerline.


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