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E-auctions – just how fair are they?

How many readers have taken part in an Internet or e-auction? It’s a subject that is rapidly becoming a top of the list issue with many converters.

Naturally, we all have to move rapidly in this era of white hot communications technology. Naturally, every buyer wants his or her printed film, cartons, cases or labels at the best possible price. And naturally, converters want to fill their machinery. But clearly – if what I hear is representative – not all auctions are fair and above board. Reports of dummy bids are mentioned and prices well below production costs mooted.

From the converter’s point of view it is not easy to be strong on price when the market is tough, but it clearly makes no sense to lose money over and over again to win business in an auction. And from the buyer’s side of things, beware what you post on the auction and be doubly sure that you know that the converter who wins can fulfil the order. Are you certain that they understand what they are required to produce and do they have the technological knowhow and kit to be able to do it? One tale I heard at the ERA conference recently (see report in this issue)involved a converter being approached to help out a buyer with an order for retort pouches after an auction had been won by someone who didn’t even know what a retort pouch was!

As John Durston, of Amcor Flexibles, said at the conference, e-auctions are here to stay, but some clear rules and regulations are needed. If they are to prove of serious lasting value, a protocol certainly needs to be set up.

Please write to me with your experiences of these auctions, both good and bad.

Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2003!