The Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI) in Paris has ruled that internet auctions should be subject to the same taxes and duties as physical auctions in France.
This means that online auctions must use a state approved auctioneer (commissaire priseur) when selling vehicles in France; and when selling vehicles outside France to people in France.
Commissaires priseurs enjoy a state-controlled monopoly in France, and have the right to levy a charge of 9% of the price achieved at auction.
The TGI became involved in the case when the association representing France's 458 commissaires priseurs challenged the right of online auction Nart.com to operate outside their monopoly. Nart.com sold artworks online to French buyers, but did not pay commissaire priseur charges because the paintings for sale and the computers running the auction were in the United States.
Nart.com said it would appeal against the TGI's verdict but will work in the meantime with commissaire priseur Maitre Binoche.
This means that internet auction buyers in France will be at a disadvantage to buyers in other countries, because the French will be forced to add commissaire priseur charges to the price buyers bid for an item sold at an auction.
Nart.com said it expects the commissaire priseur monopoly to disappear later this year as France adopts a European Commission directive on the liberalisation of auctions.