When something is purchased via an Internet auction, it is not bought from the auction house (eBay, Yahoo etc) but from an individual or company. The auction site is merely providing a forum to enable individuals to trade with one another and usually adopts a policy of not taking legal responsibility for any loss that is suffered from using their service.
Once the bidding has concluded, the payment for and delivery of the purchase is negotiated between the purchaser and seller. If the item is not delivered after it is paid for or is not what was represented on the auction, then the auction house will not refund any money. The onus remains with the purchaser to approach the seller to negotiate a proper settlement.
The statutory warranties that exist under the Trade Practices Act do not cover goods bought at auction. The seller's only obligation is to give clear title.
The following advice is offered when buying via Internet auctions;
- Understand as much as possible about how the auction works, what your obligations are as a buyer, and what the seller’s obligations are before you bid.
- Find out what actions the auction house takes if a problem occurs and consider insuring the transaction and shipment.
- If a problem occurs with the auction transaction, it could be much more difficult if the seller is located outside the Australia because of the difference in laws.
- Learn as much as possible about the seller, especially if the only information you have is an e-mail address.
- Before a payment is made for any auction purchase, the seller's identity and contact details should be verified in case there is a problem with the delivery of the item.
- Determine what method of payment the seller is asking and they are asking to send payment.
- Ask the seller about when delivery can be expected and if there is a problem with the merchandise is it covered by a warranty or can you exchange it.
- Utilise registered mail to enable tracing of parcels. This will assist in eliminating claims that the parcel was sent or it has been lost in the mail. Click on the link to Australia Post to find out more information.
- Check that the auction account information matches email, bank account and location information.
- Utilise the auction house feedback forum to check out the seller’s history before agreeing to pay any money. Please note however, that sellers sometimes post positive feedback on themselves or organise other people to do it on their behalf.
- If in any doubt about the integrity of a person selling via an online auction, utilise an escrow agent. An escrow agent is an independent third party which holds payment in trust until the buyer receives and accepts the agreed upon item from the seller. This service incurs a fee, however it protects buyers because the third party holds the money until the goods have been received and inspected.
Please also refer to the information relating to jurisdiction to determine which law enforcement agency the matter should be reported to.