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sheep-1306621_1920Online versus live? Franchising? Absolute auctions? Shill bidding? Lack of education?

I think there’s a far greater issue moving forward in the auction industry as I discussed with Georgia Auctioneer Colton Moore a few days ago.

What’s happened since the 1950’s is that many states have been on an occupational licensing binge; if it contracts, earns income, provides a service … or moves — license it.

Relatedly, these states have enacted laws and regulations to manage and control auctioneers and the auction industry. Now that those laws are in place, and more are on the way, the issue I speak of here is that currently auctioneers have this problem:

    1. There are enough auctions and auctioneers to deserve regulation and management from state and federal agencies.
    2. There are not enough auctioneers to have a say nor an influence in how they are regulated and managed by state and federal agencies.

State agencies are charged with a majority of this regulation. These agencies are increasingly saying, “You auctioneers need regulated,” and “We don’t need your input on that regulation — we’ll take care of that ourselves.”

While discussing an auction law issue back in the late 1980’s, a state regulator told me ….“Sheep need fenced in, but that doesn’t mean we ask the sheep what kind of fence.” It doesn’t seem any different today.

Currently, there are auctioneers who are even members of state and federal legislatures. But the question is, are they auctioneers who happen to be legislators, or legislators who happen to be auctioneers?

State auctioneer associations as well as state auctioneer commissions and boards attempt to have a say (and should have a say) in how auction laws are created and interpreted — yet the state agencies and their attorneys largely dictate how laws will be enforced and adhere strictly to their own interpretations.

Money and power are at the root of this issue. As state and federal agencies gain more power, and legislators are teased by more money from largely non-auctioneers, auctioneers may well have a smaller voice in their management moving forward.

Here’s a list of some of the largest dollar lobbyists in the United States from 1998-2015:

US Chamber of Commerce
National Assn of Realtors
American Medical Assn
General Electric
American Hospital Assn
Pharmaceutical Rsrch & Mfrs of America
Blue Cross/Blue Shield
Northrop Grumman
Boeing Co
Exxon Mobil
Lockheed Martin

See anything mentioning auctioneers? See anything auction related? See the word, “auction?” You don’t.

Just imagine a bill that would make auctioneers the exclusive marketers of certain real estate nationwide — think the National Association of Realtors (NAR) would notice? Do you think legislators would hear from NAR? Maybe they would talk around the 15th hole, somewhere in the Cayman Islands?

I applaud the National Auctioneers Association as they hosted their most recent “Day on the Hill” in September, 2016 with auctioneers visiting their state/federal representatives — reminding them of the merits of auction marketing; we as auctioneers cannot do enough of this type of thing.

Yet, who did those legislators meet with the next day and the next day … and the next day? Did such meetings involve campaign contributions? Probably sizable ones, thus influencing their future votes more so than meetings lacking such.

There are powerful lobbies in banking, real estate, insurance and the legal community which alter the course of legislation every day in every state and nationally. Do those groups keep an eye on the auction industry and any proposed legislative changes? They do indeed.

Until more auctioneers join together, and pool resources in order to effectively lobby legislatures, there’s probably no solution; even then it’s an uphill battle with the enormous resources and influence other [competing] occupations already possess, and the power state regulatory agencies desperately try to retain and embolden.

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. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.