This would require detailed record-keeping, daily government inventory reporting and “product holds” with police and/or sheriff inspections before property may be sold.
Why would a state do this?
This isn’t as unusual as one might think. And, with an increase in sophisticated theft, government officials might rightly think that auctions contain stolen merchandise and want to inventory and/or look over that property for the purpose of recovery and crime prevention.
Some states (Ohio [§ 4707.111] for one) requires any auctioneer notice the local police or sheriff’s office 24 hours prior to the auction event — presumably so if stolen merchandise can be traced to the auction, there is time to take appropriate action.
This proposed Florida law (if enacted into law) would create quite a hardship for many auctioneers; it would burden Florida consignment auctioneers with requirements unlike any other state in the United States.
Is theft and the resulting consignment to auctioneers a big problem? In some markets, it probably is — yet do stringent inventory and inspection laws create a hardship on an entire industry which outweighs the benefit of finding stolen merchandise?
Any state’s legislature could argue that “Personal property consignment auctions are typically a good way for a seller to maximize proceeds while selling “as-is” and remaining largely anonymous.”
I suppose a thief would find those favorable terms.
However, it would appear there would be better ways to oversee this selling at consignment auctions, and aspects of auctions thieves would not like …
- Florida could make all sellers show proper identification so they can be found if the items they consign are found to be stolen; those sellers consigning stolen items would risk being held criminally responsible.
- Items dropped off at an auction house don’t typically sell that same day. There is some reasonable delay from delivery to auction, as those items need to be properly exposed to the market. The items could be inspected or researched further during this period.
- Auctioneers could be reasonably expected to report any suspicious activity, behavior and/or consignments. For instance, if a large consignment of stereo equipment arrived at an auction house, the auctioneer might expect the seller to know where it came from, the models, the approximate age, etc.
- Typically auctioneers maintain records of all buyers, so there would be a chance some or all of the stolen items could be recovered.
- Those consigning items to an auction house sometimes don’t receive their money for 10, 15, or even 30 days. This isn’t an attractive payment arrangement for a thief, who more likely wants to convert stolen merchandise very quickly.
Are auctioneers secondhand dealers? Some would say, “certainly” as they are dealing in secondhand merchandise. Yet, should they and their clients be burdened with legislation which assumes a material amount of the consignments are stolen? It would not appear to me such legislation is prudent.
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.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.