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Your Rights When Using Internet Auction Websites

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 11 Jan 2019 | comments*Discuss
Your Rights When Using Internet Auction Websites

In recent years, online shopping has become a huge phenomenon. On the back of this, Internet Auction sites have become an extremely popular way to purchase almost any item, usually via a bidding process. Whether trying to purchase a rare find, or find a bargain, online auction sites are the place to go.

However, if you purchase an item through an Internet auction website, you will not necessarily be covered by the same consumer rights that you have if buying from an online retail store, or shopping on the high street. Occasionally, users of Internet auction websites may run into problems regarding the quality, delivery or description of the goods that they have purchased. Internet auction websites can also be susceptible to opportunistic fraudsters. So if you are considering buying from an Internet Auction website, make sure you know what consumer rights are applicable, and how to shop online safely in this way.

Private or Business Seller?

The first fundamental point that you should be aware of is the fact that the Internet auction site is not an online retailer - that is to say that the auction site is effectively acting as just a host to the sellers, much like a paper will print private classified advertisements. This means that the Internet auction site is not responsible for the content of the advertisements placed. Unlike their live auction house counterparts, an online auction site will have no legal obligations in relation to the goods advertised for sale on its website.

You should also be aware that if your seller is based outside of the UK, any consumer rights that you usually have might not be applicable when purchasing overseas. For this reason it's always a good idea to first check the location of the seller so that you can be sure of whether any of your consumer rights are applicable.

When buying or bidding, you'll be purchasing from either a private seller or a registered business seller. It is partly your responsibility to decide whether you feel that the seller is trustworthy and bona fide. This can be done in a number of ways - for a private seller, it is worth checking their feedback, the actual comments left and what contact details have been made available to you. If buying from a private seller, then you should be aware that your consumer rights are effectively relatively limited compared to buying from a business. Private sellers in particular may not always be clear about their terms of sale, and what their returns policy is. If the auction website does not stipulate a general returns policy that sellers must comply with, then you should contact the seller prior the end of auction or purchasing the item, to ascertain their individual terms of sale and returns policy.

Private sellers are, by law, only expected to provide an accurate description ('as described') of the item that they are selling. This means that unlike a business seller, the items don't have to be of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose.


For non-auction purchases, a business seller is required by law (Distance Selling Regulations and E-Commerce Regulations) to give accurate information about the items that they are selling, as well as providing the consumer with their contact details and a non-PO Box registered business address. The regulation also gives the consumer seven working days to cancel the contract. The consumer will be entitled to a full refund, including the postage and packaging costs, unless stated otherwise prior to the purchase. If the seller has neglected to provide the required information as set out by the Distance Selling Regulations, then the consumer has three months to cancel the contract. However, be aware that these cancellation rights are not always applicable with purchases such as audio and visual products that have been unsealed, software, personalised and tailored items or perishable items.

The E-Commerce Regulations also stipulate that as well as providing registered business contact details, the business seller must also provide clear information regarding any 'hidden' costs such as VAT and other taxes, supplements or delivery costs. They must also inform the consumer of any relative trade organisation that they belong to, as well as the details of authorisation schemes pertinent to their business.


Common problems encountered with Internet auction sites and private sellers include non-delivery, late delivery, or a dispute over the description of the advertised item. Remember that with a business seller, you are covered by the consumer rights as outlined above. However, for private sellers, the auction sites or payment agents such as PayPal have a complaints procedure to deal with such disputes. Quite often a compromise is reached so that both parties are satisfied with the outcome. Should you find that your dispute is not satisfactorily resolved, and that your rights have been abused, then you can try contacting your local Citizen's Advice Bureau or the UK Govt's Consumer Direct line to discuss how to take the matter further.

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David M - 31-Oct-18 @ 4:50 PM
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Claire - 25-Oct-18 @ 12:05 PM
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Claire - 25-Oct-18 @ 12:01 PM
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Claire - 25-Oct-18 @ 11:59 AM
Before you go spending money at auctions it’s well worth knowing how you’re protected by consumer law – or even if it protects you at all. Depending on the type of auction, your rights vary greatly, so it can be a little confusing. In many ways, you can be better off doing your auction buying online. In Person Auctions The 1979 Sale of Goods Act gives the consumer certain rights. When you buy something it must match its description, be of satisfactory quality, and fit for its purpose. If you buy something new at auction, or buy something second hand at an auction you could not attend, you still have these rights, and if the goods don’t meet these standards, you have every right to return them for a repair, replacement or refund. However, if the goods are second hand, you attended the auction and you were informed that the Sale of Goods Act didn’t apply, and the auctioneer can show this was reasonable and you still bought the item, then you lose your rights. Your contract is with the buyer, not the auction house, and they’re not obliged to give you any details on the seller (the auction house does have some responsibilities in the sale, such as making no false statements about items, and these responsibilities should be posted and visible. If the Sale of Goods Act does apply to the lot you bought, then you might get restitution if the seller is a trader. If it’s a private individual, your rights alter. If the description proved false, you might have a claim – contact the auction house. Beware of guarantees, since they may not transfer to a new owner. In the case where the item proved to be unsafe, caused damage or if the auction house has been negligent or made a false statement about the item, you might be entitled to compensation. Contact the auction house, showing your proof of purchase. With damage caused or unsafe goods, talk to a lawyer. If you buy a vehicle at auction, you may find that you have no rights. If you do have a complaint, it might be best to start by consulting the Citizens Advice Bureau. Internet Auctions When it comes to Internet auctions, things become a little more complex. If the seller is a private individual, then as long as the goods are as described, you have no recourse – the rest of the Sale of Goods Act doesn’t apply. However, some sales on auction sites aren’t auctions at all. If the item is “Buy It Now,” it’s not an auction, but a sale, and your rights depend on whether the seller is a private individual or a trader. If it’s a trader, then your rights under the Sale of Goods Act apply. Additionally, because it’s classed as distance selling, in most cases you’ll have the right to a cooling off period of seven days, and the trader should inform you of this. You can cancel your order in writing, and the trader must return your money within 30 days.
Claire - 25-Oct-18 @ 11:54 AM
I got scammed over a property in Germany. Lost €30,000. Midland have “Sold” this propert multiple of times on their auction. They are in Partnership with a Bulgarian guy, living in Scotland.
Fester - 5-Oct-18 @ 9:37 AM
Won and auction, paid promptly, the silence. No calls, no collection details... buyers beware, now taking them to court. contact me if you want.
annon - 11-May-18 @ 10:54 AM
Hi everyone..I have a court date now against them..anybody like to come..
Sefton - 11-Apr-18 @ 7:32 PM
Some auction houses have facilities to bid online. Bidders who prefer to to bid on the day at the auction venue are able to bid and then withdraw bid by putting hand or 'numbered bidding paddle' down. Not so for online bidders who when they hit 'BID NOW' will have their bid irrevocably registered with 'no going back' or ability to withdraw their bid as in-house bidders are able to do in changing their mind and withdrawing from bid. Ebay provides a facility to 'confirm' bid before final decision to buy. For the first time using an online auction bidding system I expected opportunity to confirm my bid before hitting secondary final bid button. I wasn't sure I was properly registered or 'live' to bid as I had had difficulty ascertaining my credentials as registered to bid - and so I decided to randomly test live auction site by hitting 'BID NOW, expecting, as with Ebay, I would be able to confirm my bid before it finally went through. No such luck on the Cranbrook auction site I was trying to operate. I am now £1800+ charges poorer for bidding on silver ware I didn't expect I had bid on.
Microbe - 4-Mar-18 @ 5:57 PM
Who’s up for sorting these scumbags out? Legally obviously. They owe me £7000??
Pat - 9-Feb-18 @ 3:25 PM
Hi Stefan What is your contact details: if you are going to court I support you.
Victim of Midland as - 6-Feb-18 @ 10:16 AM
hi everyone...I filed for small claims regarding a vehicle....we will be in court against Middland Assestment..anybody like to come forward...regards
sefton - 29-Jan-18 @ 11:35 AM
Help- Your Question:
Can anyone that has had dealings with this company please contact me as I’m having serious problems with them regarding a large some of money thanks

Our Response:
Have you all considered Watchdog or Trading Standards?
OnlineShoppingRights - 15-Jan-18 @ 12:30 PM
Can anyone that has had dealings with this company please contact me as I’m having serious problems with them regarding a large some of money thanks
Help - 12-Jan-18 @ 3:28 PM
I'm another victim of midland asset management. I closed my company and chose them to liquidate all my old stock. After various prompt communication, they arranged to collect everything to sell in lots. Following the collection, I get no communication at all from them and found my lots listed for auction. After multiple attempts to contact them i get no response at all. Unfortunately I didn't sign any paperwork but i could clearly see the lots on ibidder were my stock. I haven't had any contact with them and obviously they didn't make any payment to me. Is there anything i can do?
not_good_with_auctio - 13-Nov-17 @ 12:26 PM
hi.. I am one of the Midlands asset management victim. Long story but I have been to their premises as well and now sure that they formed to cheat people not for business purpose. I am just looking for other victims to come together and looking to take acollective action against them...anybody interested?
sefton - 17-Oct-17 @ 6:59 PM
Añgelica- Your Question:
I bid for x 50 6 bale towels close to £500 at Haddon & James auctioneers. The towels on the picture and what I have received are totally different. The towels are bad I can't even do anything with them. I have never seen low quality towels like that. It's sad that the £497 is gone in the drain. Are their any laws at all? I was also charged 5% late payment fee which they say is 48 hours.

Our Response:
Sorry but the consumer protection laws do not apply to business-to-business transactions in the same way as they do to business-to-consumer, and Haddon and James is a B2B auction.
OnlineShoppingRights - 17-Oct-17 @ 11:06 AM
I bid for x 50 6 baletowels close to £500at Haddon & James auctioneers. The towels on the picture and what I have received are totally different. The towels are bad I can't even do anything with them.I have never seen low quality towels like that. It's sad that the £497 is gone in the drain. Are their any laws at all? I was also charged 5% late payment fee which they say is 48 hours.
Añgelica - 16-Oct-17 @ 11:25 AM
Hi guys, I am another victim of midland asset management property scam, I paid around 2000£ for a property in USA, including their commission of 200 and 500£ legal costs. But after paying in April and passing 4 months now , I haven't heard anything from them... When I try to call them they say the person responsible for property is not there , either on holidays or busy. I left many messages but no one ever bothers to call back. Sent 10 emails in last 4 months but not a single answer, in other words they just ate the money? Is it the going to court straight away for not answering or trading standard agency is best course of action. Pls guide
Victim of Midland as - 1-Sep-17 @ 1:08 PM
My husband bid on a property with Midland Asset Management and won the bid for £1300 so had obviously reached its reserve price. Not happy I rang them and said that my husband should not have bid but they said I had to pay but I could re-list for £118. So I paid the bill £2000+ by the time I had paid fees vat etc and re-listed asking for the original reserve. They put the property in auction but didn't know when it was and found out it would have sold but did n't reach its reserve of £1500. I asked them where they had got that figure as if the original reserve was £1500 then my husband wouldn't have won it as he had only bid £1300!! So we lost that sale! They then put it in again and said It wouldn't be in for 2 weeks as it had to have this period in between!! However went on line the Sunday and it was in the auction!! We watched and it went For £1900!!!! Success!!??No! Midland said they were chasing vigourasly for Payment and then the next day that the person was a victim of fraud and there was no sale!!!Went in the next auction and the property went for a reserve of £1300 however we now have to wait as there are "legal" issues to deal with before our money is released!! Not sure which way to go now. Did ask if there would be any compensation or good will as they messed up on the first sale but the lady said NO!!This has been an ongoing saga since April and I feel totally disgusted with this Company's lack of customer service and inability to keep in touch with their customers!!!
Patrushka - 9-Jun-17 @ 3:07 PM
We have no rights at all. Impossible to find, impossible to pursue and a political and institutional setup that protects business, full stop. Blah, blah is expected response
Daniel Joseph Dohert - 8-Jun-17 @ 2:19 AM
We have no rights at all. I Possible to find, impossible to pursue and a political and institutional setup that protects business, full stop. Blah, blah is expected response
Daniel Joseph Dohert - 8-Jun-17 @ 2:18 AM
Hi there, I was wondering if there is any legislation covering buyers in online auctions? Thanks in advance
Stunomidge - 10-May-17 @ 9:16 AM
As an on-line auctioneer I have some sympathy with bidders who clearly fail to read the terms and conditions prior to bidding. Amazingly hardly anyone does! The excuses we have heard are legendary!(But we have heard them all) However, business is business and why would an auction house simply allow bidders to walk away from payment when terms are clear - you bid - you pay. (in the T's & C's) It is not the opportunity for a buyer to renegotiate! These are not consumer sales and if you don't know what this means you should stay away. There is virtually no redress in this type of auction and consumers do not realise that until too late. (T's & C's) A lot of sales are distress sales where reserves are low to get rid of lots immediately, there are genuine bargains to be had, but if you haven't viewed - and you know we haven't- then bid accordingly! (we state this in the T's & C's) The other common misconception is that the contract is with the auctioneer. This is not the case, the contract is with the vendor (all there in the T's & C's) The vendor writes the description by way of approval. As auctioneer if we are asked to sell 100 vehicles that we have never driven or even seen, hence the disclaimers -and we rely on the vendors description - if it's wrong - take it up with the vendor. (we do tell you ALL this in the T's & C's if you bothered to read them!) We will genuinely listen to any problem, however if you fail to read the T's & C's and wish to vary these after the event that is not going to happen. We will deal with you fairly - but expect you buyers to be honourable too! By now you will realise that the contractual part - the liability is all within the Terms and Conditions - please read them and then bid accordingly, as they are binding.
THE AUCTIONEER - 7-Jul-16 @ 10:53 AM
Greener - Your Question:
Hi. I recently sold a business through an online auction site. The winning bidder requested more time to raise the funds and left a 10% deposit. He didn't manage to raise the remaining funds in time. Can someone tell me who should get the deposit. The auction house or me ?If it makes a difference I paid a nominal £120 to the auction house as a set up fee to run the auction.Many thanks

Our Response:
What are the auction house terms and conditions? There are no specific rules in consumer rights legislation that cover this.
OnlineShoppingRights - 27-Apr-16 @ 11:23 AM
Hi. I recently sold a business through an online auction site. The winning bidder requested more time to raise the funds and left a 10% deposit. He didn't manage to raise the remaining funds in time.Can someone tell me who should get the deposit. The auction house or me ? If it makes a difference I paid a nominal £120to the auction house as a set up fee to run the auction. Many thanks
Greener - 26-Apr-16 @ 9:18 AM
Also in a horrible situation with midland asset management. My partner bidded on a van and as soon as he hit the bid button realised that he had made a huge mistake - if you look on the separate t&c on their website tons of different get out clauses. Plus other reviews online for them. He was worrying that the mileage was not genuine and van could be stolen etc and it could be a potential death trap that he would have to drive home 4 hours in either that or waste 4.5k. Anyway as soon as bid was made I tried calling both ibidder and midland to no answer. It does say in their terms that a bid can be retracted with the auctioneers consent. Phoned them first thing in the morning and explained bid was made on my account by him, and that we understand that there is a contract but had tried to contact straight away and is there anyway to retract the bid and pay the difference from the last bid, Anyway to put a long story short they said no. Took them 4 days to send over further notice, hadn't even recieved an original notice. Anyway the company said I could pay £600 as that was how much it would cost them in lost fees, not true, no way does it cost this amount this amount for a 4k van when it had 10 bids on anyway! I said it wasn't actually me who was liable and gave them bfs details, the price went up to £900 (within an hour) Then they phoned me up, the man was rude rude rude, aggressive and nasty, and said fine I'll sue you for 6.5k- Anyway I could go on forever with this and what was said etc. Will be calling trading standards in the morning.
Girl2015 - 5-Mar-15 @ 12:00 AM
@OnebyOne. Perhaps you could give Trading Standards the details? Ifthe company is trading unfairly, they will be interesting in investigating.
OnlineShoppingRights - 27-Feb-15 @ 11:51 AM
@Never buy in Shipley - as a business seller the items sold should be of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose. We don't have the description of the vehicle so cannot really comment accurately here. Also what were the auctioneer's terms and conditions?
OnlineShoppingRights - 17-Jul-14 @ 11:31 AM
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