Auctioneers - stringent qualifications

Practising auctioneers have until January 2015 to ensure they comply with new regulations requiring a minimum educational qualification in terms of a new code of conduct to be introduced into the sector.

Announcing the adoption of a draft code in Johannesburg, the South African Institute of Auctioneers (SAIA), Chairperson Tirhani Mabunda, said: “Effective January 1 2015, it will be unlawful for any person to advertise or act as an auctioneer, auction company, auction house, or hold himself out as an auctioneer within the Republic of South Africa without a minimum educational qualification and a license issued by a professional body.”

This means anyone looking to work as an auctioneer must complete a N2F4 and an N2F5 course. The African Training Academy & School of Auctioneering based in Linbro Park in northern Johannesburg, is the only institution which offers these courses. The qualifications are in line with exams which estate agents have to write under the Estate Agency Affairs Board.
To act as a principal and to have people working under you, you need to have passed the N2F5 course while an NQF4 & 5 qualification will allow you to practice as an auctioneer while working under a principal.

A novice with no experience can expect to study for a year with 30% of the course comprising lessons and the remaining 70% entailing on-the-job training under the supervision of a qualified auctioneer.

Not everyone will have to attend these courses as previous experience will be taken into account and recognised.

Mabunda says the draft code of conduct will first be subjected to a public consultation process whereafter it will be accredited by the Department of Trade and Industry. It’s hoped this process will be concluded in the first half of 2013.

He says the main aim of the industry code is to professionalise the auction industry by establishing minimum entry requirements into the profession, to promote ethics within the sector and enforce compliance using the office of the Ombudsman for Auction Services, which will regulate the activities of auctioneers through a licensing regime and will also deal with complaints lodged by consumers.

The sector is still reeling from the effects of allegations of bid-rigging and kickbacks linked to the attempted auction by Auction Alliance of the Quion Rock wine estate in December last year. It was followed by a complaint to the National Consumer Commission by billionaire businesswoman Wendy Appelbaum.

“We cannot overemphasise how the Quoin Rock saga and persistent negative publicity have tarnished the credibility and reputation of auctioneers and eroded public perception about the auction industry,” Mabunda said.

SAIA board members were on Monday adamant that everything possible needed to be done to rid the sector of corruption and unscrupulous operators.

STC swipe

Mabunda also took a swipe at the banking sector for subject to confirmation (STC) auctions. This practice, he says, is distorting the true value of auctions. “The best auction you can ever find is an auction without reserve, which is called absolute.

He adds that in an auction without reserve, the public knows exactly what it is getting. Using a pen as an asset to make to his point, Mabunda says: “When people come to an auction, they know that when the hammer falls, that pen will change hands on that day.”

He says with the introduction of STC, buyers have 21 days in which to make a bid as it is not finalised on the day of sale.

These types of auctions discourage competitive bidding as potential buyers refrain from bidding, knowing they can submit offers afterwards during the confirmation period.

“It erodes the value of auctions… the banks are not seeing it, it’s affecting what they can fetch as well. They think they are protecting themselves and they dictate this to us auctioneers. But it affects them as well because if we were selling at the fall of the hammer, prices are bound to increase, because you can’t have a second bite. Either you’re there at the auction, even an online auction, either you buy before it closes or you can’t buy anymore. And that’s how it should be,” Mabunda said.


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