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The 12 per cent charged to buyers on amounts exceeding £70,000/$100,000/€110,000 will not be changed. This means that Christie’s rates to purchasers will now be the same as those charged by Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s last changed their premium in January 2003, when they set the top rate of premium at 20 per cent in London, New York and Geneva.

There will be some exceptions to Christie’s increases, notably in Australia where the buyer’s premium will remain unchanged at 19.5 per cent on all lots and in Italy where the premium will be unchanged at 24 per cent on the first €110,000 and 18.5 per cent on any amount thereafter.

Premium rates for wine and car sales will also remain unchanged. In Paris, however, the rate will increase. It goes up by 2.5 per cent from a current 17.5 per cent on the first €110,000 to 20 per cent and by 2 per cent (from 10 to 12 per cent) above that threshold.

The last time the buyer’s premium was reviewed at Christie’s was in March 2003 (although in February this year rates at their South Kensington rooms were increased to bring them in line with those charged elsewhere in the group).

“Periodically a company must examine the viability of the rates they are charging for the services they provide in order to remain competitive in the market,” said Christie’s CEO Edward Dolman.

“Christie’s last review of our fee structure took place in 2003 and this increase in our buyer’s premium effective in 2005 will help us to maintain the highest levels of client service in this most competitive current market”.