A group of 19 British auction houses has launched The Association of Accredited Auctioneers (Triple-A) in response to the special challenges of doing business with Chinese buyers.
The group's aims are to promote their UK sales to a Chinese audience and to guarantee payments from successful bidders.
Members' catalogues will be posted in Chinese at www.epailive.com and bidders registering on the site will be required to pay money to cover their purchases into an escrow fund operated independently of epailive, with payment promised within 48 hours of the sale.
The initiative has been promoted by Chris Ewbank of Ewbank's in Surrey, who becomes chairman of Triple-A.
"The internet is having an increasingly significant impact on our individual businesses," he said, "but auctioneers and their buyers have been wary of dealing with each other when they are separated often by thousands of miles and obvious language barriers.
"The biggest problems for UK auctioneers and their clients have been the difficulties of placing their sales before Chinese bidders and, because of differing practice and a culture of delay, Chinese buyers have frequently been slow in paying or have refused to pay at all.
"Ours is a market sector in which credibility and service are key. Triple-A provides a platform from which to broaden foreign consumers' understanding of precisely what they should expect from a UK auction house and what the auction house requires from them.
"As a not-for-profit association, Triple-A will represent the highest level of standards and service in the profession, and we will jealously guard its accreditation standards with a rigid code of practice which all members must adhere to."
The association's secretary, Jeremy Lamond of Halls in Shropshire, focused on the potential of the Chinese market. "There is now an increasing body of evidence in support of the notion that China's 'middle classes' are beginning to look West in the evolution of their collecting and decorating tastes," he said. "Triple-A provides its membership with the ideal platform from which to promote access to Britain's rich market for the benefit of its seller clients."
Paul Viney, chairman of the Society of Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers, added: "Personally, I welcome any initiative that can help us promote and develop our business links with the Chinese. Triple-A will be making a presentation at the next SOFAA committee meeting in December and we look forward to hearing more about their plans."
• The 19 founder auctioneers are Anderson & Garland, Baldwin's, Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood, Canterbury Auction Galleries, Cheffins, Dreweatts and Bloomsbury, Ewbank's, Fellows, Gorringes, Halls, Hartleys, Lawrences of Crewkerne, Lyon & Turnbull, Mallams, McTear's, Peter Wilson, Roseberys, Sworders and Toovey's.