While studies have held that auctions should be live or online, and not both, this method persists in some markets.
The argument made is that, “Rather than providing the best of both worlds, mixing online and live bidding combines the disadvantages of both …”
We noted that complete study here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/selling-at-auction-online-and-live/
In our story today, there is an auction with live bidding and online bidding. The auctioneer notes he has the live bidder and the online bidder is out. With no further bidding, the auctioneer says, “Sold!” to the live bidder.
However, the online bidder (mistakenly) receives a notice electronically that he is the winning bidder. As such, the live bidder is deemed the buyer and the online bidder and every other bidder is not the buyer. Yet, the online bidder’s electronic notice says he is.
Since there was no bid that was made “while the hammer was falling” in acceptance of a prior bid, there is no authority to reopen the bidding. The live bidder isn’t willing to give up his lot and the online bidder demands he be deemed the buyer.
What to do?
This isn’t really any different than a ringperson telling a bidder he’s the high bidder when he’s not — except there isn’t any written proof such declaration took place, or in some ways no different than a bidder just mistakenly believing he is the high bidder when he’s not — except there isn’t any expression from the auctioneer nor staff that he is the high bidder.
With an online bidder (possibly) seeing on his computer screen that he’s the high bidder, coupled with a follow-up notification that he’s won, he would have thought to have no reason to bid again — yet, bidding again is exactly what this online bidder needed to do to be the high bidder.
In this particular situation, when the auctioneer said, “Sold!” to the live bidder the seller and this bidder were firmed to be in contract. If this buyer is not wiling to waive this contract, there is no way for the seller to allow further bidding and/or possibly mediate this dispute.
Quite frankly, the online bidder was merely noticed as the high bidder by mistake; mistakes happen in live auctions and online auctions alike, and this online bidder (and this seller) need to acknowledge that. If anyone has a claim here, it’s the seller much more so than the thought-to-be high bidder.
And, even the seller has a modest claim — that the auctioneer/staff possibly didn’t properly notify a bidder that he was “out” instead of “in” and/or the computer software didn’t reflect the true status of the bids.
Without some evidence of premeditation or conspiracy, this is a situation which I would conclude — ultimately — that the bid stands with the live bidder and there is no successful significant claim of liability to the online bidder nor seller.
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 Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.