Auctioneer Chris Aston: Why I charge for phone bids

Auctioneer Chris Aston who explained to ATG why his saleroom charges for phone bidding.

Fees charged by auctioneers, from buyer’s premium to condition reports, have been a hot topic in the pages of ATG and on social media recently. One reader contacted us regarding the move by a West Midlands auction house to charge winning bidders who have used the phone the same fee as online buyers.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | ATG Reporter

Auctioneer Chris Aston who explained to ATG why his saleroom charges for phone bidding.

Aston’s Auctioneers in Dudley holds two sales a month, one of which is a regular specialist toys and model railways auction.

It charges a buyer’s premium of 24% including VAT to room bidders, with 30% including VAT levied on commission bids, phone bids and internet bids. It accepts phone bids on lots with an estimate of over £500.

Same charges

Here Chris Aston explains his firm’s approach: “We charge anyone not in the saleroom the same fee whether they are online, leaving a commission bid or on the phone.

“If a bidder comes to our saleroom they get to see the lots in the flesh, they get free tea and coffee and if they win they get to take the item away with them then rather than incurring shipping costs. And then we get paid quicker too. But if they are not here then any winning bidder will be charged 5% plus VAT [6% including VAT].

“Some buyers do all their research online and get all the information for free and then want to use a phone to bid to avoid costs online.

“But we are trying to level the playing field. I am not charging to make money. We welcome all bidders to our auctions – we would simply prefer not to take bids on the phone.”

Better room atmosphere

“It is better for us to have buyers in the room to help with the atmosphere or have them online where we have their bank details. We have had some phone bidders who have not paid. We have more recourse if they bid online.

“In a recent sale we had 400 bidders online and one person who wanted to place a phone bid. If all those bidders wanted to use the phone I would have to hire more staff and it would cost me more. Dealing with phone or commission bids is all extra admin that takes up our staff time. The move to charge a fee for phone buyers is a considered decision for us.

“We’ve had mixed reactions from customers but most seem to understand and accept the fee structure.

“So far this year we’ve had one client initially complain about fees for phone bidding but then the next day he attended the sale in person and spent a considerable sum, so it seems to be working overall!”