I get asked frequently if Internet auctions are governed under Alberta’s Public Auctions Regulation under the Consumer Protection Act (formerly the Fair Trading Act). Goods sold at Internet auctions are NOT covered by the Public Auctions Regulation
There were at least four points that make online auctions outside of the scope of the Public Auctions Regulation:
A public auction must include an assembly of members of the public in one location, all in each other's presence.
The auctioneer applies his or her skills in an atmosphere where the buyers are stimulated by the fever of the moment and of the urgency of having the final bid in before the auctioneer’s hammer falls concluding the sale.
The physical removal of the goods bought by buyers upon full payments of bid price or other arrangements, as an integral part of conduction and concluding the auction.
The ability of the public attending the sale to verify during the bidding who else is bidding, that a contrary bid was actually made, the psychological state of the opposing bidder and so on (which you would not see in an electronic setup).
The regulation came into effect in 1999 and since that time the reality is that technology has overtaken the law by significant strides. However, there are many difficulties associated with Government trying to regulate or police auctions over the Internet, especially when they are based outside of Canada. We have consulted with our colleagues in other jurisdictions in Canada. Most don’t even regulate public auctions, let alone those conducted over the Internet.
There are protections for Alberta consumers who purchase goods or services over the Internet. The Internet Sales Contract Regulation applies to residents of Alberta or to people purchasing goods or services from Alberta businesses that sell online. Only goods or services that are bought or sold for personal, family or household use and have a value of more than $50 are affected by this regulation.
More information on this regulation can be found at: http://www.servicealberta.ca/pdf/tipsheets/Internet_shopping.pdf
Director of Fair Trading (as delegated)