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