The big story
Codes of practice needed?
Classic car auctioneers need to adopt a code of conduct to demonstrate to buyers and sellers that their business is trustworthy, ACA’s Rob George says.
He believes that some auctioneers’ practices can damage the reputation of others: ‘It’s the deceit I don’t like. For example, low estimates and high reserves should be banned. If you’ve driven 150 miles to see a car with a £10,000 upper estimate and it’s not sold at £13,000 you’d be right to feel aggrieved. What’s worse are the low, come-and-buy-me estimates, because they make auctioneers look stupid.’
Rob also says that because auctions are in the spotlight they need to show high levels of professionalism: ‘It’s fashionable to buy and sell at auctions and they are the barometer of the market – if one went bust it would affect the whole industry. However, because of the internet anyone can make themselves look respectable.’
DVCA’s Brian Chant believes a code of conduct would be good for the industry, but starting it, policing it and vetting new members could be time-consuming. ‘Someone will have to establish the rules and regulations and the criteria for joining, otherwise any business will be able to join and the scheme wouldn’t get anywhere,’ Chant says. ‘Not a lot is needed to start a classic auctioneer, and you’ve got to ask what the code would do if a member broke the rules. It could be difficult to set up but in principle it’s good.’
Peter Williams of HVA says a code of conduct would inspire confidence among both buyers and sellers: ‘It would definitely work across the industry, but it needs to be administered properly – perhaps by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs?’ he suggests.
South Western Vehicles Auctions (SWVA) director Chris Holmes also believes a code of conduct would be
beneficial for the industry. ‘ While we aren’t members of the Society of Motor Auctions, we do operate to its code, and one for classic sales would help inspire more confidence among buyers and sellers alike,’ he says.
How such a code of conduct could work remains open to debate, but Rob George, Brian Chant and HVA’s Peter Williams think running it in conjunction with the National Association of Motor Auctions’ umbrella, the Society of Fine Art Auctioneers or the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs would inspire confidence.
Adopting an auction code would be good for the industry, say many leading names.