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The guidance, issued on December 21 following an investigation that began in August (ATG No 2273), stipulated auctioneers should be clearer on fees.

The document, issued by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), gives examples of how charges, including buyer’s premium, VAT and other taxes, should be displayed next to an estimate. The ASA says the recommendation has now been signed off.

However, harbouring reservations about the ASA ruling, the Society of Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers (SOFAA) hopes to discuss what the guidelines mean in practical terms.

Helen Carless, chairman of SOFAA, said further meetings will be requested to get clarity on how the fees should be advertised. She said: “Our plan is to continue to pursue this by contacting the CAP’s Copy Advice team.”

The ruling has implications for auction aggregator sites that list upcoming lots for sale from many different firms.

Richard Lewis, chief operating officer at ATG parent company Auction Technology Group, which runs thesaleroom.com, said: “We will liaise with ASA to amend the way in which The Saleroom displays lot prices to ensure compliance with the new guidelines and greater price transparency.

“Additionally we will offer compliance guidelines to auctioneers where we publish printed advertisements and catalogues.”

‘As simple as possible’

Lewis says The Saleroom will consult with SOFAA and NAVA and other key stakeholders before issuing notes on how it will achieve compliance. “Naturally, we will endeavour to make this as simple as possible for auctioneers, ” he said.

An ASA spokeswoman told ATG that changes to findings issued by CAP were unlikely.

“The ASA worked with several trade bodies throughout the project and used their feedback and suggestions to draft their recommendation for how fees and guide prices should be presented.

“The recommendation has now been signed off by the ASA Council. For the guidance to change any further, the ASA would have to be made aware of another precedent that warranted a new project [investigation] being started.”

Auctioneers have three months to update their practices. At the end of March, if another complaint is lodged, the ASA can take steps to remove or have amended any information that is in breach of the code.