Real Life

Where the auction is

Could a bit of harmless fun for a good cause be breaking the law?

We recently held an auction of donated goods to raise funds for our school. Several parents gave bottles of wine, all of which were duly sold at the auction. Afterwards, one of the parents, who happens to be a policeman, told us that we had risked arrest for selling alcohol at an auction. We were flabbergasted. Was what the policeman said correct?

I can understand you being flabbergasted. I would have been too. But the fact is that by law, an auctioneer must hold an auctioneer’s off-licence, if he or she is to sell alcohol at auction. Not many of them have such a licence. This means that whoever was auctioneering at your fundraiser, even if it was a parent or teacher, risked being charged under the Sale of Liquor Act for selling alcohol. Hopefully, sanity would prevail, and any authorities that intervened would appreciate there was simply an oversight. But never rely on sanity in these situations. The irony is that, after the auction, your school would have been perfectly entitled to present the auctioneer with a bottle of whisky for his efforts, and hand out bottles of wine to others who helped out – as long as the alcohol wasn’t sold.

The law also extends to online auctions. Alcohol is on the list of substances banned from sale on TradeMe. Of course, there are auctions for rare bottles of wine and spirits, but these are carried out by auctioneers with a special licence to sell liquor.

Mechanical responses

**I met a technician trained to scan diagnostic trouble codes on cars’ computers.

He reckons if you’re buying a car, it’s now more important to read what its computer has to say about faults than have a “grease monkey” spend time underneath it.

He says that traditional mechanical problems are less of an issue these days. But he also says not many mechanics know how to read what the computer is telling them about the expensive electronic stuff. Does he have a point?**

My inclination would be to have both done if possible. I was amazed recently when a bloke with a scanner was able to tell me, five minutes from plugging into my car’s computer, everything that was wrong with my vehicle. And there had been no lights showing on my dashboard.

It occurred to me then how useful one of those scanning devices would be when buying a car. Just plug it in to the test port of the vehicle and out come all the diagnostic trouble codes. These will alert you to faults that a standard mechanical check might not. The problem is there’s a real skill diagnosing what the scanner’s telling you in code. Technicians qualified in using them are not thick on the ground. The AA tell me their outlets have scanning devices, although scans are not part of their pre-purchase inspection.

I would persist with a normal AA pre-purchase check. But while you’re there, ask for a scan. It will cost you extra but is worth it, I reckon. It will be interesting to see in future if car dealers start offering to scan second-hand vehicles they’re selling and provide you with the results.

Do you have a consumer question for Kevin? Email [email protected], or post to Weekly Consumer, PO Box 90119, Victoria St West, Auckland 1142

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