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THE big four UK auctioneers are working up plans to change the way they display estimates and guide fees, including buyer’s premium, by March.

Although they did not give ATG details of exactly how they will be implementing the new Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) guidelines, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Phillips and Bonhams all said they will be following the guidelines coming into force next month.

A Christie’s spokeswoman said: “We are aware of these guidelines and, although we have not been consulted by the ASA, we will deal with them in an appropriate manner.”

Phillips said it is “in the process of reviewing these matters” and Bonhams said it “will be fully compliant with the ASA guidelines”.

Sotheby’s said its catalogues “currently include extensive information on the areas that the ASA guidelines focus on, and we are assessing the requi rements of the guidelines”.

Currently the major auctioneers typically employ a series of small symbols to indicate when a lot may be subject to VAT, import VAT at a reduced or standard rate, Artist’s Resale Right (ARR), or whether or not it is the subject of a price guarantee or an ‘irrevocable bid’.

The meaning of these symbols is to be found in the auctioneer’s terms and conditions to the back of the catalogue.

The ASA issued the new guidelines on December 21 (ATG No 2273) that require non-optional and optional fees to be made clear where estimates are published.

The watchdog said it could begin to investigate any complaints from “the beginning of March onwards”. The ASA said it is “unlikely to expect specific information about how fees are calculated to accompany every guide price” but “such information (and how to access it) should be clear to consumers”. It added that merely including the information in terms and conditions might not be acceptable.

SOFAA guidelines

Helen Carless, chairman of the Society of Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers (SOFAA), said the organisation has been working with the ASA and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) to interpret the guidelines.

In SOFAA’s update to members, in association with ATG and its sister company thesaleroom.com, the trade body said it is near to approving the location of the buyer’s premium next to the estimate, and an asterisk beside the BP that should link to information on any other charges.

ARR must be clearly highlighted in both adverts and catalogues. SOFAA suggests auctioneers can ask the CAP Copy team for approval of an advert before publication and SOFAA asks that any feedback received should be circulated so others can learn from it.

Carless added: “The ASA has provided guidelines, not rules.” Until a precedent has been set it is still unclear exactly what changes should be made.

SOFAA also reminded members that: “Ultimately it is for individual companies to decide how to incorporate them into their adver t ising and catalogues.”

ATG parent Auction Technology Group is in ongoing discussions with the CAP and will be communicating the results of this shortly.