Arizona Auction Regulations: Are They Fair?

Auctioneers and the industry have acquired unfair notoriety. This article will provide you with information about Arizona auction regulations and discuss their fairness. Specifics may vary; however, the following information includes helpful and important guidelines from which everyone can benefit.

I stood beside a woman wearing shiny black thigh high boots, a hot pick mini skirt and a sparkling silver tube top. Thinking to myself that this would be a great time for Richard Gere to walk in and rescue his “Pretty Girl”; I realize I am standing in the special licensing office of the City of Phoenix. Special licenses regulate topless dancers, adult bookstores, escorts and auctioneers. It is rather ironic that the auction industry, which has roots that date back to the ancient time of Babylon, is classified right along side of the world’s oldest profession. It does cause one to wonder how auctioneers were grouped into this outstanding gathering of “professionals”.

Our state was recently faced with a potential law that would regulate Arizona auctioneers using the same laws that govern pawnshops. Our state association was able to successfully keep this law from passing, but not without a fight. In preparing to present the case of Arizona auctioneers to our legislators, I came across some very interesting information about auctions which shows our industry does not deserve the reputation it has garnered.

Although there have been some high profile court cases in recent years involving the revenue leaders of the auction industry including Christie’s and Sotheby’s; for the most part our industry has very few blemishes. Compared to other industries such as real estate, insurance and accounting we have no more incidents of bad business practices.

Arguably there is always one company or person who sets a tone of impropriety for the rest of us. But it is certainly true that a staggering percentage of auctioneers run businesses that are beyond reproach.

The other very fascinating yet somewhat disturbing trend I came upon was the corruption and legal issues around Internet auctions. There are several cases of Internet sellers trafficking in stolen property or selling imaginary goods that they never ship. It has become such a problem that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a division dedicated to Internet Auction Fraud. And Ebay, trying to ward of any more complaints with the FBI has created a Fraud Investigation Team of their own. For such a new industry Internet auctions seem plagued with many abuses outnumbering traditional auction cases 10,000 to one.

This Internet fraud situation does bring one question to mind. If traditional auctions seem to be relatively free of wrongdoing yet they are subject to unnecessary regulation what can these incidents with Internet auctions mean for our future? Most of the traditional auction industry has integrated the power of Internet auctions with the success of traditional auctions. What is even more troublesome is if Internet auctions continue to create national problems? Will these bad sellers often referred to as “auctioneers” fall under some sort of federal regulation? Such a situation could present devastating issues for traditional auctioneers.

As an industry we must set ourselves apart from Internet “auctioneers”. We need to promote the code of ethics of our profession. Additionally we need to push for the terminology applied to Internet “auctioneers” to be changed to “Internet sellers”. Without such a correction we risk being labeled with those who choose to regulate us with other industries prone to corruption and dishonesty.

Deb Weidenhamer is President of Auction Systems, the Southwest’s most active auction and appraisal company. Check out our website for our Arizona auction schedule or call 800-801-8880 for more information.