The law governing the sale of property at auction is complex. It consists principally of the ‘law of contract’ within the context of a public sale.
At any auction, bids are invited and the item usually sold to the highest bidder, unless there is a reserve price below which the seller will not sell and the bids fail to reach the level of that reserve.
The fundamental principle of auctions is that the auctioneer is the ‘agent’ of the seller. When an auctioneer agrees to sell a work of art he or she will do so on the basis of the ‘Conditions of Sale’ drawn up by the auction house. These will be set out in the auction catalogue and any buyer or seller should make sure that they are familiar with these.
You should also bear in mind that your consumer rights are regulated by the Sale of Goods Act 1979. As works of art are sold in various contexts (including auctions), both buyers and sellers need to be aware of the basic legal principles, including what amounts to bad practice and what is unlawful.
This section focuses on:
- Use of exclusion clauses
- Buyer beware (or the legal principle of ‘caveat emptor’)