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Thursday, 3 September, 1998, 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
Going, going, gone ... online
Another easy way to make a purchase at the press of a button.
They say adaptability is the way to survive, and from today the age old concept of bidding and bartering launches itself electronically.

While you surf the net in a cafe you can buy almost anything you want.
Trading on the Internet is not new, but now while you surf the net in a cafe across the road, you can buy almost anything you want anywhere in Europe. Just log into the first pan-European online auction house.

With a simple click of a mouse you can see a picture of the product for sale and the current bid. By entering your own price and another click of the mouse your bid is accepted.

If it's a day-long auction, you probably dont want to sit in front of the computer all day, so there is an autobid facility which allows you to leave the computer to bid for you by entering your starting price and maximum bid.

Donald Bent of 24 Auction said: "In this country at the moment it's nearly all business to business, hard nosed buyers who want to get a deal, and although they may like the atmosphere of the auction rooms, this is easier, there is more chance to get a good bargain and a huge variety of products to go for."

It's unlikely though to herald the end of Britains' famous auction rooms.
It's unlikely though to herald the end of Britain's famous auction rooms. There's nothing quite like being present to indicate your price, eye up potential opposition and see what's for sale first hand, but the market in electronic auctions is growing rapidly. This year it's expected to generate 3 billion. Research suggests this could be 35 billion by 2002.

It's a salesmans' dream. When you log on, they have you on file and experts warn if you do buy something there are also hidden costs.

Paul Bennett of Internet Magazine
Paul Bennett of Internet Magazine said: "For most of the home users they will have to dial up to use the Internet, and everytime they dial up they are paying the telecom supplier like BT for the price of a local call.

"So if they want to stay online for six hours they are paying for six hours' worth of local calls, which is different from the US where local calls are free, so you can stay online for the whole day, make as many bids as you like, and log off when you have won your item."

For the computer literate it's just another easy way to make a purchase at the press of a button. And if you thought that traditional auctioneers were fast, the online equivalent can deal with 125 bids a second.

BBC News
Karen Bowerman reports:
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