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Some states in the United States do, and some don’t.

Some license in a comprehensive manner and for others it’s more like a permit and/or formality.

Some states which have licensing are considering disbanding those regulations, and some states without licensing are considering such legislation.

So, is auctioneer licensing good or bad?

First, there are several methods for regulating or overseeing auctioneers and auctions in the United States. Those methods include:

  • No licensing, permits, or regulation at all
  • A requirement to purchase a “auctioneer” permit
  • A requirement to purchase a “business” permit
  • A requirement to take a test and pay a fee for a license
  • A requirement to go to auction school, take a test and pay a fee for a license
  • A requirement to go to auction school, serve an apprenticeship, take a test and pay a fee for a license
  • Some sort of other requirement, or combination of the above, or optional registration

For purposes of our question here, let’s look at the proponents of auctioneer licensing and what they typically site as benefits, and then look at the opponents of auctioneer licensing and what they typically site as the benefits of the lack of licensing.

Auctioneer licensing is good because:

    1. Auctioneers are then held to a higher standard — a professional standard — and this helps protect the public as a certain level of competence can be assumed.
    2. The board or agency overseeing auctioneers then can assist the public when the public feels they have been wronged by a licensee.
    3. Licensing can also require auctioneers complete continuing education, which further helps protect the public.
    4. The board or agency overseeing auctioneers can provide educational opportunities for auctioneers and/or the general public.
    5. Licensing can help protect licensed auctioneers by making it more time-consuming and/or expensive for others to enter the profession.
    6. A state with licensing can profit from the net proceeds of license fees and other fines, minus the cost of administration.
    7. Licensing can help further protect the public by requiring auctioneers carry a bond and/or participate in a recovery fund.
    8. Statewide licensing can help auctioneers work anywhere in the state without municipal, township and/or county licensing/permits.
    9. Auctioneer licensing may allow auctioneers to then more easily operate in other license states via reciprocity agreements.

Auctioneer licensing is bad because:

    1. Licensing creates a double-jeopardy situation for licensees, who then become subject to regulatory sanctions, fines, etc. as well as lawsuits by consumers in the court system.
    2. When consumers file complaints against licensees, many states’ regulators consider the licensee guilty unless proven innocent. The presumption of guilt stems from two theories:
      • If the public feels harmed, then they must have been.
      • If auctioneers go unpunished, states may deem licensing not necessary (job preservation.)
    3. A regulatory or licensing agency invites the public to file unwarranted complaints and causes licensees to spend time and money defending themselves, even when the complaint is gratuitous. On the contrary, court systems at least allow for summary judgment motions by defendants and require a more level playing field in terms of cost to file, attorney fees, etc.
    4. A state with licensing can sustain a financial loss from the proceeds of license fees and other fines, minus a larger cost of administration.
    5. Large recovery funds or other accounts with license fees can be converted by states to other projects, therefore not benefiting the licensees who paid the fees.
    6. Large recovery funds or other accounts with license fees can be witheld from licensees, requiring licensees to take legal action to release funds for their benefit.
    7. Licensing doesn’t always align with public opinion — for instance, that the local TV weatherman should be able to conduct the charity auction for the child with cancer, but state law prohibits such unlicensed activity.

All kinds of occupations require licensing in various states, such as real estate agents, car salespersons, plumbers, electricians, doctors, dentists, hair dressers, pawn brokers … the list goes on. Yet, only about one-half of the states in the United States require comprehensive auctioneer licensing.

Maybe our system of state-by-state reguation (or lack of regulation) is just fine the way it is? Is auctioneer licensing good or bad? Probably.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: www.face book.com/mbauctioneer. He is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.