§ Mr. Latham
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what progress he has had in discussions with the professional associations representing accountants following the report of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on the supply of accountancy services with reference to restrictions on advertising.
§ Mrs. Sally Oppenheim
The Director General of Fair Trading has informed me that following discussions he has been holding with the accountancy profession about action to follow this report the four professional associations have decided to amend their rules to permit their members to advertise their professional services in the local press from 1 October 1981. The associations concerned are The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales; The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland; The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland; and The Association of Certified Accountants.
The effect of the amendments will be to permit any member of these bodies, by means of an announcement in a local newspaper or newspapers—or other local publication—circulating in the area or areas in which he practises, to inform the public of the professional services provided by him. The councils of these bodies will set guidelines for the medium, form and content of such announcements, and will also monitor such announcements to secure compliance.95W
Whether or not the medium of the announcement is local will, in cases of doubt, be determined by the ethics committee of the relevant association. The councils of the professional associations will require that advertisements:—
- (a) should not contain explicit or implicit criticisms of the professional services of others;
- (b) should be factual and not likely to mislead;
- (c) should not refer to fee levels but must include a statement to the effect that the fee basis will be discussed before an assignment is accepted;
- (d) should not make a claim to any particular expertise and any reference to the services offered should be restricted to all or any of the following: accountancy, auditing, book-keeping, trusts, personal and/or corporate taxation and advisory services related to any of the foregoing;
- (e) should be of a style and content appropriate to the profession.
A member practising outside the United Kingdom will be required to observe and be bound by the requirements of the country in which he practises.
A member in practice in the United Kingdom in a firm which has offices or associates in other countries will be required not to issue such announcements in those countries unless this is acceptable under the ethical requirements of the profession in the countries concerned.
Until 1 October 1981, when the relaxation comes into effect, the present ethical requirements will continue to apply. I welcome the amendments the associations have made to their rules to allow local advertising by their members; these appear to go a long way towards remedying or preventing the adverse effects identified by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report.