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However, at least one leading trade figure, who declined to be named, told ATG that the changes should not lead to any feared crackdown as dealers have been adhering to the tighter rules for years already.

Section 47 under Part 4, Chapter 4 of the new Act amends section 188 of the Enterprise Act 2002.

Subsection 188 (6) of the 2002 Act, states that "arrangements are not bid-rigging arrangements if, under them, the person requesting bids would be informed of them at or before the time when a bid is made."

That has now been tightened so that the person requesting the information - the auctioneer - must be given relevant information about the bidders before the bid is placed to avoid committing an offence. And the amendment defines what 'relevant information' is:-

a) The names of the undertakings to which the arrangements relate.

(b) A description of the nature of the arrangements which is sufficient to show why they are or might be arrangements of the kind to which section 188(1) applies,

(c) The products or services to which they relate, and

(d) Such other information as may be specified in an order made by the Secretary of State.

In the case of a standard joint bidding agreement at a fine art and antique auction, this effectively means that parties to the agreement must submit their names in writing to the auctioneer, along with details of the agreement itself, and the lot(s) to which it applies, said the leading trade figure. And that is what dealers have been doing for the best part of 20 years already, they said.