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Ned attends many auctions. He also bids on items via online auctions.

Many bidders and buyers, such as Ned, have often wondered the identity of the other bidders.

Buyers in particular often wonder who else was bidding against them — especially the last bidder before their final high bid.

Our subject today regards if bidders and buyers are entitled to know, “Who else was bidding?”

As Ned bids at auctions, Ned may want to know who the other bidder is that is bidding against him before the subject lot is deemed, “Sold!” Alternately, after the lot is sold, Ned may desire the identity of the underbidder (the last bidder before Ned’s final bid) and/or the identity of other bidders.

There seems little reason for any bidder to wonder the identity of the other bidders, other than to gauge if they are legitimate. If Ned bids $500 and Mary bids $525, and then Ned bids $550 … Ned is primarily concerned with Mary’s $525 bid.

  • If Mary is a bona fide bidder, with the genuine intent to purchase this item for $525, then Ned should be satisfied with the legitimacy of the bidding.
  • If Mary is the seller, or a party bidding without the genuine intent to purchase, or with some other unfair advantage, then Ned would be entitled to measure the bidding process as less than legitimate.

In a live auction, it is at least possible to see the other bidders bidding; Ned could actually watch as Mary bids $525. Yet, even if Ned sees Mary bid, it is not conclusive that Mary is bidding legitimately. In a live auction, there is an openness which can help bidders such as Ned see, “Who else is bidding?”

In an online auction, it is hardly possible to see the other bidders bidding. Ned could at most see Mary’s computer-id, such as “lotscats1010” bidding, and not be sure lotscats1010 is actually Mary. Nevertheless, in an online auction, Ned’s quest to know, “Who else is bidding?” goes unanswered.

Further, the time and resources it would require to record all bidders in a live auction would be material, and certainly the disclosure of those bidders during the auction would slow a live auction substantially. Online auctions allow for all this recording and disclosure, although the data provided is largely generic, and not valuable.

Is Ned entitled to know who the other bidders are? No he isn’t.

The invitation to offer extended by an auctioneer asks merely if you would like to bid a certain amount, and is not contingent upon the identify of the current high bidder. Too, the actual offer bidders make (and the acceptance thereof,) is not contingent upon disclosure of the other bidder(s).

Can auctioneers disclose the bidders’ names and/or identities during an auction? Can the auctioneer say, “Mary is on at $525 and Ned, I want $550 …?” and thus disclose to Mary and Ned their respective identities? Or, could the auctioneer say, “Sold to Ned for $550 with Mary as the underbidder?”

Sure, this information is not prohibited from disclosure, but such might affect bidder participation — as many people bid at auction coupled with the desire to be anonymous.

We wrote about auctioneers announcing the bidders’ (and buyer) names here:

Who else was bidding? Bidders at auction who want this information will find their pursuit largely unfulfilled.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Greater Columbus Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction and. His Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.