eBay sal is a sale, court says
A WWII Wirraway airplane, one of only five known to be flying was offered on eBay at a reserve price of AU$150,000 (US$128,640 according to this site). The sole bidder sniped it with 20 seconds to go in the auction and won the bidding. Unfortunately the owner had already agreed to sell the aircraft offline for AU$250,000 (US$215,000, ibid) – only he didn’t cancel the auction. The NSW Supreme Court ruled that the the sale was binding and ordered the man to turn over the aircraft at the auction price.
On one hand I agree that the buyer and seller are bound by the eBay rules, which clearly state that offering an item or bidding on an item constitutes a legal contract. On the other hand we’re not talking about a vintage G.I. Joe or a used camera. I’ve seen many auctions where the buyer will state that the item is subject to local sale and might not be available to the winner of the auction. For the majority of eBay items I think it’s reasonable to assume that the buyer is not advertising them in the Recycler. But in the case of a vehicle, especially an aircraft, isn’t it reasonable to assume that the seller is pursuing other avenues? In this case it’s not as if the buyer decided his reserve price was not high enough and changed his mind about the sale. He’d already agreed to sell the aircraft to another party – a ‘local sale’, if you will. He may have just forgotten to end the auction early. An oversight. Should the buyer have prevailed because of an error made by the seller? Or was the court correct.
If you were the buyer, what would you have done? Take it to court as the buyer did? Or just leave negative feedback and look for another aircraft? (Not that you would find another Wirraway, but something similar like an SNJ/AT-6/Harvard.)