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Some live auctions even today sometimes involve very little technology in regard to payment and/or delivery. Online auctions intrinsically necessitate technology — often specifically regarding payment and delivery.

As such, live auctions have for centuries encompassed the concept of “reasonable time” — bid for what you want, pay before you leave, pick up your items thereafter … all basically without any extremely strict deadlines in place.

Online auctions on the other hand do involve technology and often “time matters” in that there may be strict deadlines for payment and shipping, and as such “time is of the essence.”

Courts in the United States basically treat “time is of the essence” in regard to the weight of the damages. Often, an auctioneer/seller missing a delivery date is considered a material breach of contract (with or without a “time is of the essence” provision.)

Otherwise, courts have not typically treated late payments as a material breach (with or without a “time is of the essence” provision) because late payments can be mitigated — with penalties or interest, for example.

Overall, no doubt auctioneers have noticed that time matters much more in their online auction versus their live auction. Online auction platforms close and a fraction of a second later, the property is sold; maybe payment is due within 24 hours, and all items shipped out 72 hours later.

The other driving force — in that time matters — more in online auctions is that buyers have learned to expect timely shipments — and that’s because almost all other retail companies pay attention to time, and commit to a certain deadline.

Does time matter? More and more we’re claiming it does, abandoning a long-standing tradition of “reasonable time” here in the United States. Maybe the new standard will be that it’s reasonable to expect timeliness?

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 Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.