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For Christie’s, these rates apply at King Street in London, the Rockefeller Center in New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Geneva, Zurich and Tel Aviv. For Sotheby’s, they apply only at Bond Street, New York and Geneva.

Christie’s were keen to emphasise that the new rates would not apply to their South Kensington rooms, nor to their rooms in Paris, Australia, Rome and Milan, whose rates remain as they are.

Sotheby’s, in turn, have retained their old rates at Olympia, Paris in Hong Kong and on their Internet sales. Sotheby’s increase was the result of the firm’s need to improve operating revenues as costs increase, said Executive Vice President Robin Woodhead last month.

Bonhams increased their buyer’s premium on their lower price tier from March 1. From that date a new rate applied of 17.5 per cent (plus VAT) on the first £30,000 and 10 per cent thereafter. Formerly the company charged 15 per cent on the first £30,000. The increase was “to bring it closer to our competitors”, said chairman Robert Brooks. At the same time Bonhams expanded their sliding scale for vendor’s commissions, lowering the rate for higher value consignments with the aim of attracting new business at the top end of the market.

Formerly vendors were charged 15 per cent on consignments valued up to £1000 and 10 per cent thereafter. From March, consignments of up to £1000 attracted a rate of 15 per cent plus VAT, It is also now 10 per cent from £1000-£49,999; 7.5 per cent on consignments in excess of £50,000 and five per cent for those valued over £100,000.

The increases have sparked further outcry from dealers, with some calling for a renewed challenge in the courts to the legality of charging buyers a premium.