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Laws and regulations around the United States are not in unison. Most laws use the word “auction” meaning an auction event with one or more lots. State law in 49 states (and Louisiana by analogy) refers to an auction as one lot — suggesting multiple lots being sold at the same time is an “auction event.”

In other words, in almost all jurisdictions, an auction is an auction event and an auction is only one lot. How do we reconcile? Maybe a better question is, “Do we need to reconcile?” No matter, it will likely never happen.

Courts struggle with this legal concept. Some judges (and juries) have used auction when they meant an auction event, and others have said auction event when they meant an auction. On the witness stand, I’ve more than once clarified that state law says each lot (item) is an auction in itself.

What are the implications? For example …

  • Let’s say a regulatory agency allows anyone to conduct one auction of a seller’s property without a license once a year — is that one item or one auction event of multiple items?
  • Let’s say that a regulatory agency says that a buyer may at his option avoid the auction or take the goods at the price of the last good faith bid prior to the completion of the auction if the seller bids without disclosure — is such voiding just for that one auction lot, or voiding all purchased auction items?

I assume such an individual would have to contact the regulatory agency to clarify? The key issue here is to find out what the law or regulatory agency means by the word “auction” before steps are mapped for conducting the auction (or auction event.) Do they mean one item or an “event?”

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.