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Drop in complaints against auction industry

Jun 13 2017 18:53

Cape Town - The number of complaints levelled against auction houses in South Africa has dropped by more than one third year-on-year, and 2017’s numbers so far indicate this downward trend is set to continue.

This is according to SA Institute of Auctioneers (SAIA) director Joff van Reenen, who was re-elected as director of compliance at the institute’s 2017 annual general meeting.

Van Reenen is also lead auctioneer and director of The High Street Auction Company.

SAIA Compliance and Discipline Panel’s Philip Powell, who also sits on the organisation’s board, reported to the 2017 AGM that the number of complaints against accredited auction houses had dropped from 78 in 2015 to 49 last year. And only 18 complaints had been submitted to the industry oversight body so far this year.

Van Reenen says: “Settlements were reached in most cases last year, and the average length of time from initial complaint submission to ruling by the Panel was two weeks. Our Compliance and Discipline Panel makes every effort to process complaints speedily, because as the industry’s oversight body we have a duty of care to the members of the public who engage with us to deliver results.

“SAIA member companies must abide by the settlements and/or rulings issued by the panel. If they refuse, they will be subject to hearings and stand to have their SAIA accreditation revoked and their membership suspended.”

No trifling matter

Van Reenen says for a company to lose SAIA accreditation is no trifling matter.
 
“Most auction business is derived from the corporate sector and neither corporates, state-owned entities nor banking institutions will continue a relationship with any auction house that loses its SAIA accreditation. The effect on a suspended auction house’s bottom line will therefore be dramatic and it will be felt immediately.”

Van Reenen says the substantial reduction in the number of public complaints referred to SAIA is gratifying on several levels.

“It shows that on the whole auctioneers in South Africa conduct business ethically and transparently, but it also demonstrates the escalation in public awareness and understanding of the workings of the auction sale process in general.

“Many complaints received by SAIA over the years have been as a result of buyers or sellers not having all the necessary information about specific but standard aspects of the auction process, then crying foul afterwards.

“Technology and access to internet research is creating a much more educated modern auction client base, but the industry still bears considerable responsibility to ensure that every person with whom they conduct business fully understands the process.”

SAIA was founded in 1989 to provide a clear set of industry standards that promote the ethical practice of the auctioneering profession and is the national association for auctioneers and the stakeholders and clients of the auctioneering industry in South Africa.
 
SAIA members must meet specific legal requirements, be in strict compliance with the Industry Code, the SAIA Code of Conduct and be members of the requisite affiliated associations.

SAIA chair John Cowing advises anyone who intends to conduct business with an auction house to first check its accreditation status.

“Registered members have to be legally compliant in every way and if you’re unhappy with the manner in which a sale or lot has been managed, you have rapid and full recourse through SAIA’s Compliance Panel members, by whose rulings accredited auctioneers must abide.”

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