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However, telephone bidding can occasionally have unforeseen, unsettling moments.

Bizarre reaction

Recently, I experienced a novel and quite bizarre reaction to possibly naive assistance afforded a foreign auction house.

I booked a telephone call to bid and, when they phoned me, I thought it helpful and opportune to advise them that the second of two lots of interest had been misdescribed, and I offered a correction.

They checked, came back to me, said that I was indeed correct, and gave an assurance that they would announce the alteration.

I was then told that, as I was “not happy with the description”, I could not bid on the lot! This was not entirely amusing.

Serendipitously, the item went for more than I would have bid, and I did manage to purchase the first lot, through gritted teeth.

Had the second gone cheap, one wonders whether your A Lawyer Writes legal expert Milton Silverman might have had a field day, as I was perfectly happy with the correctly revised description.

Gavin Littaur

London NW4

Milton Silverman replies: Here is an extract from one well-known auction house’s terms and conditions which makes the point rather bluntly: “the auctioneer can at his discretion… refuse any bid…”

Many auction houses will have something similar in their terms.

To what extent a consignor’s best interests – or even those of the auctioneer – might be served by an auctioneer refusing to take someone’s bids, is of course another matter.