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I recently put a number of items into sale with an auction house with which I have had a positive relationship, largely in selling, over the last three years. I was largely pleased with outcomes from the sale and subsequently received and banked their cheque for my sales.

Shortly after having been paid, I received a phone call from the auctioneer and valuer with whom I always conduct business. He, rather sheepishly, explained that an item I had put into the sale and which had been, I assumed, accurately catalogued, and had sold for nearly £200 hammer price, was now the subject of a complaint from the buyer.

It seemed that, having received the ceramic item, he had spotted some restoration and was seeking a partial refund. The argument from the auction house was that, while it was prepared to pay some of the money to the buyer, it was felt that I should contribute an equal share.

After some further discussion in which I expressed my unhappiness about the request – I had sent the vase for sale in good faith, had not known about the restoration (it was an item which we had had for probably about 10 years) and noted that the auction house’s catalogue description also gave no indication of any previous damage – I agreed to pay.

The only reason for doing this was that, up to this point, I believed that the auction house had looked after our interests well and I wished that to continue.

I probably would have dismissed the matter altogether had I not taken part, online, in a very recent auction sale where the auctioneer, at the beginning of the sale, in his ‘rules and regulations’ information to potential buyers, had stated very clearly that no refunds would be given, adding that it was for the potential buyer to ensure that they knew what they were paying for.

So, this made me think. Which is the more common practice? Is it that of my experience, of part-paying for something for which I felt no responsibility, or is it that auction houses would usually offer no refunds in such cases or would pay such costs themselves?

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