Auction glitches anger bidders

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Bidders are angry about an auction, run by Graysonline, which was retracted due to a ‘technological difficulty’.

Bidders are angry about an auction, run by Graysonline, which was retracted due to a “technological difficulty”.

Successful bidders at an online auction of IT goods on graysonline.com.au, which ran on Friday afternoon, were told by the auction house that the sale was voided due to “unforeseen technical problems”. Punters were given only 30 minutes to try their luck, as the close date for Auction lot 10377 -- a clearance sale of $50,000 worth of IT gear from Harris Technology -- was wrongly set at 4.30pm on Friday afternoon after opening at 4pm.

One irate customer, who requested anonymity, said he received notification that he had placed the winning bid on one item, only to receive an email 20 minutes later from Graysonline customer service retracting the auction.

Graysonline general manager, Mark Kehoe, told iTnews that the company reserved its right to withdraw auctions and winning bids if the auction had been affected by a technical fault.

“When the sale was put into the system, it had an incorrect end time placed in the system,” Kehoe said. Although the data was reset in the system, a “technical problem” with the server meant this new data was not updated when the auction went live. “Prior to the sale going live, the server did not update beyond 30 minutes [of the start time]”.

Kehoe pointed out the terms and conditions of the Graysonline website -- contained in the Bidder's Agreement -- whereby the company reserves the right to retract a winner's email and re-open a sale in the event of errors in processing, site downtime or any other errors or delays caused to the site and as a result of “unforeseen technological difficulties”.

Kehoe added this was the first time a fault of this nature had occurred.

In addition, the auction was not promoted. Typically, an auction is promoted with an email to members before going live. In the case of Auction lot 10377, the auction went live before promotion, with the wrong end date, which meant it was open only to those that happened to stumble across the auction at the time.

However, bidders were not placated by this explanation. A second bidder told iTnews he received a call 20 minutes after receiving his winning bidder email, where a company spokesperson confirmed the auction had been aborted due to technical difficulties. The bidder claimed that when pressed, the spokesperson did not know the nature of this difficulty.

The first bidder, who is an IT professional, said the reason Graysonline had provided, “does not hold water”.

“[The company spokesperson] has stated that they hold approximately 80 online auctions per month. The excuse that a technical difficulty arose from the failure of a server to update is unbelievable considering the automation of their online services. The only plausible reason is manual error which happened to occur on a Friday afternoon.”

“If Grays chooses not to accept the outcome of the auction, they bring into question the legitimacy of their online auction service,” he added.

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