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We wrote about auctioneers telling their bidders “You can’t believe anything I tell you” here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2015/10/23/you-cant-believe-anything-i-tell-you/.

Today, we explore a different topic; auctioneers literally say this sometimes: “You can not rely on anything I say …” Our question regards if I’m not to rely on the statement that I’m not to rely on anything you say?

This regards assigning liability for errors, mistakes, misstatements and the like to bidders. For example, “This is an 1880’s Finger Lamp with a 2” base, but if it’s not, that’s not my problem (disclaiming) or that’s your problem (assignment.)

If the buyer is not able to rely on this statement that this is an “1880’s Finger Lamp …” is he further not able to rely on the statement that “You can’t rely on anything I say?” In other words, I can rely on what you say?

A simpler example: “I am always going to lie to you …” means that I’m also lying about always lying to you? We previously wrote about how auctioneers shouldn’t lie: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/01/16/maybe-auctioneers-shouldnt-lie-at-all/.

The overall topic here involves issues of disclaiming liability (for errors, mistakes, lies) versus/and assigning liability (for errors, mistakes, lies) and how this often invites abuse including premeditated, purposeful misrepresentation: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2018/10/24/possible-risk-with-assigning-risk/.

Here in 2020 most consumers in most transactions can rely on the service provider and/or agent for details such as condition, quality, suitability, etc. Auction business? Not so much as auctioneers love talking about what it is, when it was made, how it was made, what it does … but then disclaim or assign all that risk for such statements being accurate.

It isn’t that auctioneers necessarily lie but such behavior leads some to become very loose with facts (beyond puffing or sales talk) given the belief is that none of it matters. We wrote about legal sales talk (puffing) here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/puffing-versus-misrepresentation-at-auction/.

We have also previously noted that Federal Law here in the United States essentially prohibits false descriptions (whether or not forewarned of such) and those describing [auctioneers/sellers] could be subject to civil action https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/1125.

It seems to me the sooner the auction business moves to more disclosure, more honesty, more integrity and more liability for accuracy (with less disclaiming and assignment of such,) the more the public will trust auctioneers and the auction business.

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.