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Christie’s have introduced an additional lower tier buyer’s premium of 25 per cent throughout their salerooms worldwide. The change, effective from September 1, means three different premiums of 25, 20 and 12 per cent will now apply at different thresholds.

These will vary according to local currency but in London the new higher charge will apply up to £10,000. Above this the thresholds and premiums of 20 and 12 per cent will continue to apply at existing levels.

As well as the premium rate and threshold changes, Christie’s are making a series of adjustments to vendor charges in a number of their markets. These include raising the handling charge for unsold lots at South Kensington from £35/£50 to £50/75 and imposing minimum trade and private commission rates of 15 per cent for vendors in Amsterdam and Paris.

ATG also understands that these and existing vendors’ fees will now be enforced with more rigour.

Christie’s have also taken the opportunity to change the way they describe their services to vendors. The term “illustration charge” is to be replaced by the term “marketing fee” as the auctioneers feel this new description better reflects how they present their clients’ property to the market. There will be no change to the actual amount charged for this marketing fee.

Explaining the business thinking behind the increase Christie’s CEO Ed Dolman described it as “an opportunity to reinforce our strength in the market by investing further in our client environments internationally and in our client services”.

Giving examples of how the revenues would be invested he cited the newly refurbished sale rooms at South Kensington, the main floor public space at King Street, new offices in Hong Kong, the newly organised client development structure, enhanced catalogues and marketing, and their online bidding service Christie’s LIVE.

Historically increases in buyer’s premium have caused a great deal of comment but had a surprisingly limited long term impact on sales. Lisa King, international managing director of Christie's, told ATG she was not expecting to see vendors or consignors react negatively to the 25 per cent figure.

“We offer a unique high quality service and a saleroom second to none at Christie’s South Kensington [where most items under £10,000 are sold]. She said: “We are confident the premium increase will have no impact on our market leading position.”

However the changes appear to be in line with Christie’s desire to focus upon high value items at the expense of the so-called lower end of the market –unless it brings rewards.

Some auctioneers outside the capital are already anticipating a premium ‘bounce’ as vendors look further afield to sell their possessions at more favourable terms.

One major auction house was already reporting a substantial upturn in the number of autumn consignments at what is typically a quiet time of year – something they attributed to the sea change in attitude to vendors of lower value items at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s.