[Solved] Car Auction Debacle - cars not what had been expected...

Dear Ozbargainers,

Need some help here with a sticky situation with my uncle.

He attended a used car sales auction and ended up with being the winner of 2 second hand cars.

He is a 77 year old gentleman who has has mild-moderate cognitive impairment, very limited English (speaking) and understands even less written English (i.e. unable to read terms and conditions of contracts).

Essentially he attended this car company, multiple times prior to this auction to register, but had lost his registration multiple times as stated by the registration person. Despite this, they had still let him participate in the auction.

He had asked the salesperson about the cars, who he stated multiple things contradictory to what has been provided on the terms of the contract.

They said the Porsche was unregistered, but they would register the car if he was the winning purchaser. Following the proceedings, they stated he would need to do it himself. I have checked the car and it has not been registered since 2017, and has multiple issues (i.e. driver shaft; heater; door locks; battery needs replacement)

The Rolls Royce, they had told him that he would be the second owner and that it was an honorary consulate car prior. I had performed a REVS check and although it was honorary consulate car, he would not be the second owner but the fourth.

I have had a look at the car reports, there are multiple defects, which my uncle has limited English and poor vision, did not recognise and the car dealership did not explain this to him. They had sold the positive aspect towards him.

Essentially, he had attended the auction and was the winning bidder.
They had made him pay a deposit of 9,000 on the day, which he had used a credit card. There is a remaining some of $80,000 which is unfortunately not within his limits of spending as he is retired.

Unfortunately, there is no cooling off period and they expect us to pay the full amount, or will say that legal action will be taken against him. That is, he will need to pay the full amount, or they will re-auction the car and he will pay the difference of the losses.

I would like to see if there are anyone with feedback with the best approach of action, i.e. any lawyers or any arguable case for him?

Appreciate your time Ozbargainers.

closed Comments

  • the car dealership did not explain this to him

    Was it actually a car dealership?

    All used cars can have potential defects/problems. It's up to the buyer to do a thorough check. If not sure, don't bid on it.

    He is a 77 year old gentleman who has has mild-moderate cognitive impairment, very limited English (speaking) and understands even less written English (i.e. unable to read terms and conditions of contracts).

    But even to fill out the registration form, multiple times…

  • +19 votes

    you should obtain free legal advice from NSW Legal Aid.

    they have lawyers who specialise in consumer law and will be able to provide legal advice.

    you can contact Legal NSW to get correct legal advice on consumer law by calling 1300 888 529 and booking an appointment.

    end thread

  • Well, if he cannot even afford the prices that he bid, he is at fault. He probably should pay the re-auction difference and take it as a lesson. It sounds like he is bound to lose money one way or another.

    • This is a potential option.

      Very difficult to gauge the outcome and loss of the money, which I want to avoid in this retired gentleman.
      - They advised a 'No Reserve' basis.
      - with commission fee (~9%) and entry fee

      That could potentially mean the car being sold significantly lower than the purchase price. (i.e 50-90% loss)

    • Considering the auctions just happened, there's a good chance there won't be any difference. Sounds like a decent option. Although if he is in this bad a shape mentally, it won't be a lesson to him because won't remember/understand it, and someone should be keeping an eye on him, like in a home. But that also means he's in bad enough condition that they may have legal legs to stand on in fighting it, which is the option I would take.

      • @HardlyChardly,

        Thank you for your response.

        I'm not too sure about the demand. The car was listed on car auction website since 2014… seems like there may be a lack of demand. Uncle was only interested in it due to the seller promoting the car well.

        With the resales - there are a few factors that I considered, such as 'false biddings/shill bidding' which i am worried might have happened. I.e closely affiliated people to the car may have made artificial bids to artificially increase the price.

  • +6 votes

    Who is the carer and person responsible for your uncle given his handicaps?

    • The primary carer, was unfortunately overseas.

      He still is able to perform basic things of living.
      He lacks higher executive function such as financial decisions and has moderate short term memory loss. He has vascular dementia due to sleep apnea and previous stroke.
      He still has full control of his finances.

      • +3 votes

        He lacks higher executive function such as financial decisions

        He still has full control of his finances.

        This is where it will get tricky.

        I suggest you get initial legal advice.

      • uhhh not to sound like a dick but is he going to be driving these vehicles? It doesn't sound like someone who should even be driving?

        • According to him his uncle has -

          moderate cognitive impairment

          poor vision

          vascular dementia

          and is getting up in age

          I really dont know how op is a doctor and finds no issues with someone like this remaining on the road .

      • Definitely worth getting legal advice, they could somehow argue on the basis of dementia. You may end up having to come to some sort of settlement, not perfect, but at least he may not have to pay out full amount I.e pay buyers premium

  • To clarify it was an open car show room.

    I agree, due diligence is required before any purchase and i believe this was not done and limited by his cognitive impairment.

    He understands simple things like name/address/dob. He had required assistance with filling out the registration form (i.e he had given his credit card details to someone to help copy into the spaces).

  • https://www.alrc.gov.au/publications/11-other-issues/incapac...

    If he is incapable of making a contract you have a case otherwise he should have done his due diligence before purchasing the cars .

    • I personally dont believe he has capacity in making well informed decisions.

      It is not normal for someone to attend an auction and end up buying 2 cars.

      • +10 votes

        It would have to be supported by a doctor and be prepared for him to lose his license

        • This would probably be part of supporting evidence in case it does go to court.

          His sensory and motor functions are still in tact and he is able to drive. As a medical professional (Doctor) myself, I don't think it would require his license to provide evidence of his cognitive impairment in reading/interpretation/understanding the contract.

          Thank-you for the advice. :)

          • @Pattycakes: A lot of people don't always read or understand every little detail of the contracts they sign, but are still under obligation to fulfill it.

            From the looks of it, I think your uncle knew what he was doing(signing a contract to buy a car).

            Seeking legal aid and following Spackbace's advise is what I would do. I am curious if simply a doctor's letter could get someone out of a contract.

            • @ozhunter:

              I am curious if simply a doctor's letter could get someone out of a contract.

              It's situational, and bloody rare that someone says they're mentally unfit to enter into a contract. Normally we'd know, and wouldn't even bother getting you to sign in the first place.

              Given that the buyer in this situation has a questionable mental capacity, it wouldn't be too difficult to just let him out on a good-nature basis.

              Also why I said that the auction house may ask to keep the deposit, or the purchaser may have to offer as a means of avoiding a court case.

              It's all worth a shot before getting lawyers involved. Also avoids him having issues on his license down the track.

              • @spackbace:

                Given that the buyer in this situation has a questionable mental capacity

                I don't think it's questionable, even with the OP's bias. I think the uncle clearly knew where he was going, knew what he was registering for, and knew what he was bidding on

                it wouldn't be too difficult to just let him out on a good-nature basis.

                It sure would be nice of them to let him off, as they can always auction it off.

                It's all worth a shot before getting lawyers involved


      • +4 votes

        but people on ozbargain continually buy stuff they dont need…(joke).

        but yeah , a 77 year old with bad english and cognitive impairment…

  • Given his issues it might be wise to talk to his doctor and see if he needs a guardian to make decisions for him. You could also find out if this could be used to invalidate the current contracts.

    This is something from SA.

    We've heard some horror stories coming out from Government Advocates so you might want to investigate what all the options are. I think you need to do this soon as he, may well, do something else inadvisable.

  • I would normally do my usual response to these posts, but it seems to be a recurring theme where people put themselves into difficult positions. Which initially could have been avoided. Seek legal advice. There might be some fine print the legal adviser can find to get out of it. Especially if he doesn't have the funds to pay for the cars.

    Car auction operators are dodgy as. Like Casinos. Happy to take your money.

    • I agree - this could and should have been avoided.

      I will read the terms and conditions and seek legal help.

      Thank you.

    • What business is not happy to take your money?

      • +5 votes

        I give up. Which business it it?

        • We'll have to wait for Dedbny on this one. I haven't a clue.

          • @tshow: An ethical business. You two seem like reasonably intelligent people. Not sure why you always insist on arguing everyone for themselves. This attitude just creates more of what is ugly in this world.

            • @Karfaffel: Not sure if serious. Every business is happy to take money. None are upset by it, or they wouldn't be asking for money. "Everyone for themselves" is how it actually is, people don't need to be coddled, they need to think for themselves.

  • +2 votes

    It sounds like getting a lawyer for advice and then a geriatrician to do a capacity assessment is probably your best bet. With regards to his driver's licence, if he has a moderate cognitive impairment he is almost certainly going to end up with conditions placed on his licence at the very least even if it isn't cancelled, but that would be another thing the geriatrician would no doubt consider.

  • As a car salesman who has heard of these issues before…

    Get a doctor to say he's unable to understand a contract and the buying process. And don't let that doctor be you.

    Don't let it go to court before this argument is used. Do it as soon as humanly possible.

    Letter from doctor, as well as something from the carer, sent to the auction house to explain why he was unable to understand. Keep it simple and to the point and factual.

    Condition of the cars should never be mentioned during your argument to them.

    They'll drop it as a court case is more difficult than simply re-auctioning the cars.

    The $9,000 deposit may struggle to come back, or may be used to let him out of the contract if it's easier from your side.

    • This; great approach. My only suggested addition is to seek some legal advice/assistance re: the letters.

  • @spackbace.

    Thank you for your independent and honest advice.

  • It's an auction so no refunds when the hammer drops.

  • Is it a dealer or an auction? An auction house will never register something if it is unregistered. I have a feeling your "uncle" is telling you what he believes, rather than what actually happened.

    If you went with him, why did you:
    A) Allow him to bid at all
    B) Allow him to bid on something he can't even afford.

    If you didn't go with him, all of your information is inaccurate, likely very innacurate.

    How would he even drive with "poor vision"?

    A revs (ppsr) check doesnt tell you who has owned, or how many people have owned a vehicle.

    Your entire story is dodgy.

  • @Brendanm

    This was an auction house.

    I did not attend the auction personally. If I did, this wouldn't have happened in the first instance.

    It was a service NSW vehicle registration and it states from 1975 - present - it was registered as business —>private —> honorary consulate —> private.
    I had assumed that this would mean 4 different owners, but please correct me if I am wrong.

    The other car, is indeed UNregistered based on NSW registration check. It has not been registered since 2017. So maybe that would be an arguable point, However the contract does state that the consumer accepts all defects and the website says that they

    I am providing information to my best availability based from Uncle's understanding (which is quite limited). Hence, this is why he underwent this purchase.

    Thank you for raising the points.

    • As it's at an auction, you buy as is where is. Your uncle has no recourse. It's likely what your uncle is telling you is not actually what happened. People often hear what they want to hear, and assume a lot. What site did you get the information from regarding previous owners?

      Number of previous owners is completely irrelevant anyway, unless the info for the car states that it had only one owner. Nothing you have is on writing, therefore your uncle has bonlet to stand on.

      Best thing to do is to offer to forfeit the deposit if they allow him to back out of the sale.

      Also, you never stated how it's possible he drives, when his eyesight is so bad that he can't properly look at a car.

  • All I got to say is NEVER Buy USED CARS sold at CAR AUCTIONS.
    (Except government cars)

    You must be very suspicious of any used car that is sold via auction.

    You got to ask why werent these cars purchased/traded in by dealers?
    There must be something wrong with them!


    • In my case, I was looking into selling at auction as I was going from two cars to one, so trade in wasn't possible, and I didn't relish the thought of advertising it for private sale given the horror stories I've read (yes, I know people don't generally post all the good experiences they had, only the bad). It seemed a quick easy way to dispose of it, but as luck would have it I sold it to a work colleague instead.

  • A Doctor helping a relative who (don't know how long they have been in Australia, but has managed to survive this long) can lay down $100k on 2 used cars, asking Oz Bargains for help.

    How many contract has he entered into in Australia? His limited English was not an issue at those times?

    • I believe its buyer beware at auctions and its up to the seller to check car out. Buying any car at auction is filled with unknowns and that it is the risk you take.

    • It's an auction, as is, where is.

    • What is it that people don't understand?


      The auction is auctioneer the goods, as is, where is. It is not their job to inspect the goods for you, beyond having a cursory glance. It is their job to list whether it has been a right off. Obviously the car you looked at was not. It is your job to inspect the goods you are buying, if it is damaged, don't buy.

      The items sold at auction can be had at a lower price than normal. This is because there is an inherent risk associated with it if you don't know what you are doing.

      You had to pay as you agreed to purchase the car at the price you agreed to. It is not the auctions fault that you did not do your due diligence. Therefore, you pay them for wasting their time.

  • OP, if the cars were as your uncle thought they were, would there still be a problem?

  • used cars at auctions are literally all the left over junk no dealers wanted

    kind of like john west tuna: the others get what he rejects :P

  • +3 votes

    I have no wish to appear rude but if your uncle attends a car auction and wins two vehicles then it's not the auction houses problem if he's not the full ticket. From what I've read here it would seem the auction house will have to resell the vehicles at a future auction and your uncle will be liable for any costs incurred and to my mind that's fair.

  • What is he doing bidding on a Porsche and a Rolls Royce for heavens sake………….???? thats the big one here.

  • put him in a camry and replace the badge with a big 'R'.

  • this is a 'too bad' situation as i know all car auctions get sold as a 'as is where is' basis
    you are responsible to inspect and test drive the vehicle, almost all cars at auction sometimes come with minor/major faults

  • The fact that he has mild cognitive impairment may mean that he doesn't have capacity to make financial decisions. You could ask his GP for a referral to a neuropsychologist for further in depth cognitive testing and a capacity assessment. Capacity assessment requires a trigger (which in this case is a financial decision), and a conflict (he's making purchases that you believe he is not capable of making) and the neuropsych may well say that he doesn't have capacity to do this and will need a financial guardian appointed so this doesn't happen again. It would then give you some legal standing in the sense that he's been making decisions he's not capable of making, potentially rendering them moot. You may well find that the cognitive impairment in certain domains is far more advanced than anyone realised - people developing dementia tend to hide it fairly well in the early stages and everyone puts it down to 'old age' when it's anything but.

    • Hi @ MissG,

      This was well written. Thank you for your advice

      Would you happen to be a health professional / legal profession?

  • Im sorry for uncles situtation.

  • Auctions are buyer beware. Always. Due diligence must be done by the buyer.

  • Get a medical capacity assessment done by a Geriatrician or a Neuropsychologist. If the assessment finds that your uncle doesn’t have the capacity to make financial decisions then you might be able to use the legal system to get his legal liability waived or at least reduced.

  • I have to be honest with the OzBargain community because this BS OP is passing on annoys me, and it seems to be occurring more and more with a niche of posters.

    OP - The original problem you brought up is that the cars have defects and other conditions on the goods being sold, so the sale should not go through as a result of this. In fact that's what the title of your thread is.

    At the bottom of your post the true reasoning for not purchasing the cars is that he doesn't have the money. So..even if the cars were in good condition, he wouldn't be able to through with it?

    You come off as manipulative / playing the victim. You're trying to find problems with others to justify his mistakes. How can I (and any third party you go to - this is important for you to understand) believe what you are writing with this approach?

    You should have come out with:

    'Hi Community,

    My Uncle, 77 years old, has made a mistake by buying two cars he does not have the money for at an auction. We don't believe he is of sound mind - what legal options do we have?'

    How do we know the the people auctioning the car said they would register the car if he won? - Were you at the auction when they told him that (if so why didn't you stop him from bidding)? or is that what your uncle, who doesn't understand English and is apparently not of 'sound mind' told you? - Do you understand now what I'm saying with how you've approached this forum and how immediately everything you've said comes undone?

    • I'm sorry this post angered you. It was not my intention to do so @SpottheOzzie.

      I just wanted to seek opinions from the community and I am very grateful for everyone's advice.

      My intention wasn't to play the victim card, but to convey the story to the best of my understanding.
      This situation has caused a heck alot of grief and heartache for the family members after realising the situation.

      My emotions may have unintentionally been embedded in the story telling as I just didn't want the family to suffer the consequences of this impaired decision.

  • What due diligence is everyone referring to? Provided I haven’t been to a lot of auctions, the ones I’ve been to, won’t even let you touch the damn things let alone inspect them lol!

    Due diligence via visual inspection??? Maybe for a painting!


  • Thread closed, marked as Solved.