Cooling off periods send a chill through online art sales

The legal definition of what constitutes a public auction is at the centre of legislation which is due to be enforced in June 2014 and which could undermine the rapidly expanding online art sales world, according to The Art Newspaper (‘New rules threaten online art market in the UK‘).

Cooling off periods, where the purchaser can return goods within 14 days after purchasing are nothing new. However, art auctions have historically been excluded from the legislation’s reach:

Until now, auctions—whether conducted in the saleroom or online—were excluded as it was thought the right to cancel would encourage irresponsible bidding and could leave auction houses vulnerable to covering costs

However, from June, this exception will be removed. Pierre Valentin, an art lawyer and partner at Constantine Cannon LLP sees this as an example of the unsuitability of consumer online sales models to the sale of high value works of art.

“The right to cancel is incompatible with the auction of art and antiques. The new regulations might work for the sale of trinkets on eBay, but not for high-end works of art.”

Read more: New rules threaten online art market in the UK (The Art Newspaper 9 January 2014)