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You type in the “address” bar the website you want, and it’s not there. You see that your online auction is no longer up. You cannot access your account. Yes, this can happen to absolutely anyone … at any time.

Auctioneers are particularly sensitive, as they have clients’ property up for sale, and the auctioneers (and their sellers) are depending upon these auctions for income and the maintaining of their reputations. With no functioning platform, none of that occurs.

Who are the targets of such hacking or ransomware? Typically larger companies with lots of money. It’s the large “marketplace” sites that see this risk primarily, and thus smaller entities have less exposure. Yet, as we’ve suggested, this could happen to anyone.

What are you as auctioneers to do? You could quickly switch to another platform. You could create your own platform. We have previously held that creating your own marketplace may not be a terribly good idea: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2021/08/20/create-your-own-marketplace/.

While switching to another platform may seem to be the safer bet, your “other” platform could be the next victim of cybercrime. Your own marketplace will take a while to develop, so there may not be any terribly good choices here.

Other auctioneers have offered to assist — showing the true character of some remarkable role-model auctioneers; it’s a good reminder that some special auctioneers and their companies stand above many others.

Otherwise, it’s certainly a good idea to seek out ways to backup your (their?) data (seller information, bidder information, buyer information, current auctions, past auctions, etc.) These backups should be held locally in your office, safe, or other secure location. Who’s data is it? https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/07/16/auctioneers-whose-data-is-it/

Additionally, this may be a good time to review contracts and terms and conditions. Most notably, only if your auction is “with reserve” can you cancel after receiving a bid — so it may be prudent to have strictly with reserve online auctions … which would allow you to cancel any sale (any lot) so long as the hammer hasn’t fallen.

Will your force majeure (or terms otherwise) save you in the case of an absolute auction suspended by a platform outage? It could if proper notice is provided, and the auction is continued when the platform is up again … as we discussed here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/03/27/auctioneers-force-majeure-clauses/.

However, wouldn’t this same auction with a -0- starting bid and still selling with reserve be a better way to protect oneself? It would, as there would be no force majeure case to discuss, and you might spend less time in court, and more time working as an auctioneer.

Lastly, stay in communication with your sellers and if possible with your bidders to explain the situation. As we’ve continually learn, the lack of communication leads people to be frustrated, angry and suspicious.

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, and an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and Western College of Auctioneering. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.