“That’s false advertising! That’s bait and switch! That’s misrepresentation!”
Ellen had got up early, got dressed, stopped for coffee, drove 330 miles only to find out the auction was canceled.
Not rescheduled — not postponed, but canceled. Her plans to bid on and buy supplies needed for her store were canceled as well.
Ellen is angry. So angry, she calls her attorney Denise Albert to discuss what can be done. However, Denise does not have good news for Ellen.
Denise explained to Ellen that while her situation was not ideal, she needed to know that auctions are not offers to sell, but rather invitations for offers. As such, an auction constitutes an intention to sell, and not a guarantee to sell anything.
What Denise was explaining to Ellen was correct. This legal issue was first codified by the English courts in Harris v Nickerson (1873) LR 8 QB 286 and remains the common law in the United States today.
More recent to this English 1873 case, famed lawyer and Harvard Law School Professor Samuel Williston wrote about this very subject; we noted here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2014/09/23/are-you-offering-or-inviting-offers/
But I drove over 300 miles here, and it will be over 300 miles back. I’ve essentially wasted a day. I may have to get a hotel? Doesn’t the auctioneer or seller owe me something?
The short answer, Denise explained to Ellen, was, “No, they don’t. Denise continued, “Of course if you could prove some premeditated intent to deceive or that this is repeatedly this auctioneer’s or seller’s practice … then you might have a case, but that case is likely to cost you more than 600 miles of gas and a hotel room.”
“I should just head home?” Ellen asked rhetorically. “Well, you’re away from home and it’s the weekend — why not stay over? Find a nice restaurant?” Denise replied, “Or, yes, just head home.”
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 Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Hondros College of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.