The Advertising Standards Authority has issued a ruling regarding the display of fees when publishing auction estimates.

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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) underlined once again its strict scrutiny of the auction market in a ruling that a Christie’s advert was ‘misleading’.

Following a complaint, the ASA investigated the auction house and criticised its notification of fees, such as buyer’s premium, and said that Christie’s must rethink how it displays fees next to estimates.

In December 2016 (ATG No 2273), the ASA announced requirements that non-optional and optional fees should be made clearer where estimates are published.

Clear indication

Auctioneers previously employed a series of small symbols to indicate when a lot may be subject to extra costs and fees such as VAT or Artist’s Resale Right (ARR).

The meaning of these symbols was usually found in the auction house’s terms and conditions to the back of the catalogue.

However, the ASA and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) guidance suggested the fees should be clear on each page of any advert or catalogue.

Following correspondence with the ASA, SOFAA and Antiques Trade Gazette’s parent company Auction Technology Group issued guidance on the ASA’s rules.

“We believe that the guidance we have issued, if followed, should hold auctioneers in good stead,” said Richard Lewis, chief operating officer at ATG.

Many regional auction houses have now changed the way they display estimates.

The ASA’s recent investigation was focused on Christie’s online catalogue from the Interiors sale of January 31. The ASA said the auction house must ensure “information about how those charges and taxes were calculated were adequately signposted” and “ensure that quoted guide prices in future advertising for auction items or lots made clear that non-optional charges… were payable on top of the hammer price”.

In a statement, Christie’s said it had “already worked in accordance with previously stated recommendations to ensure that we clearly publish information in regard to the additional charges that can be incurred on top of the ‘hammer price’ in an auction (such as buyer’s premium, VAT and Artist Resale Rights where applicable)”.

It added: “We are therefore surprised by this finding. However, we will continue to work to improve the visibility in this area.”