AN MP who has described himself as a lifelong attender of auctions has told Parliament he wants to introduce a Bill that would outlaw the buyer’s premium.
Frank Doran, who represents Aberdeen Central, put his motion for the Bill to be introduced before the House of Commons on June 25 under the Ten Minute Rule. If introduced, its regulatory measures would encompass the entire auction process. However, Bills introduced under such conditions rarely make it to the statute book, as Mr Doran acknowledged, but he believes that if the Government considered the matter important enough, they could take over the process of drawing up legislation.
Mr Doran told the Antiques Trade Gazette that while he had been against the premium since its introduction, the recent collusion scandal involving Sotheby’s and Christie’s had finally prompted him to act. He said that he had received encouraging support from fellow MPs following his speech and would take further soundings before deciding whether to approach trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt on the matter.
Detailing the history and function of the premium, Mr Doran quoted Buckinghamshire dealer Peter Walton, a well-known campaigner against the levy, explaining how much commission an auction house might charge between buyer and seller over the sale of a lot.
“It is a rip-off,” Mr Doran told the House, “a very upmarket one, but a rip-off nonetheless.”
He said his Bill would establish the relationship between the seller and the auctioneer as one of agency.
“That is what the law is assumed to be at the moment, but the important legal cases in this area were decided before Sotheby’s and Christie’s made the fundamental change of introducing [the] buyer’s premium....the Bill would abolish the buyer’s premium. It would be lawful for auctioneers to charge for services such as publication of catalogues, valuation and so on, but the imposition of a straight commission on buyers would be unlawful because it creates a clear conflict with the duty of an agent to his client.”
The Second Reading for the proposed Bill is set for July 19.
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