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Auctions body denies ghost bids a norm

Apr 18 2012 14:12

Johannesburg - The SA Institute of Auctioneers (Saia) has denied a claim by former Auction Alliance chief Rael Levitt that “ghost bidding” is a common practice in the industry.

“Saia emphatically and categorically distances itself from Mr Levitt’s assertion that ghost bidding is not unique to him, and is the norm within the South African auction industry and across the world,” Saia chairpersonTirhani Mabunda said on Wednesday.

“Saia also disputes Mr Levitt’s statement that he has taken the brunt for the entire... industry.”

He challenged Levitt to name any other auctioneer or auction company practising ghost bidding.

Mabunda was briefing reporters in Johannesburg in response to Levitt’s comment in the Sunday Times newspaper on April 15, and because the allegations against him were “festering in the media“.


Levitt told the Sunday Times in an email that he did not deserve to be demonised by South Africa.

“I was the country’s most high profile auctioneer and I have taken the brunt for an entire industry,” Levitt was quoted as saying.

“The public has focused on ghost bidding as if it was unique to me... ghost or vendor bidding happens across the globe from venerable art auctions in London, to real estate auctions in Sydney and cattle auctions in Texas.”

His interview was the first since Auction Alliance was found guilty of contravening the Consumer Protection Act during the auction of the Quion Rock wine estate to billionaire Wendy Applebaum for R55m.

Applebaum lodged a complaint with the National Consumer Commission (NCC) in December after she claimed that another bidder, Deon Leygonie, was a ghost bidder acting on behalf of Levitt.

Mabunda said the public needed to know there was a difference between vendor or proxy bidding and ghost bidding.

With vendor bidding, fellow bidders were aware that someone might bid on behalf of the seller to keep a “reserve” price on a bid.

With proxy bidding, bidders were made aware that someone was representing a bidder not attending the auction.

Both were legal and commonly practised, Mabunda said.

With ghost bidders, fellow bidders were not aware of any proxy or vendor bids.

He said Auction Alliance was no longer a member of Saia because it did not renew its membership.

“More permanent solutions are required, and an industry code proposed by the NCC will serve such a purpose by prescribing minimum standards of qualification, licensing, ethics and professionalism for auctioneers,” Mabunda said.

“Depending on the funding model, the industry code will either be enforced through an ombuds scheme, or by the NCC.”

auction alliance  |  rael levitt  |  auctions



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