RIBA to ask prime minister to reject OFT claims that advice on fees distorts market.
THE RIBA is urging prime minister Tony Blair to reject an Office of Fair Trading recommendation that fee scales be scrapped.

In a report released on Wednesday, the OFT called for reforms in architecture, law and accountancy to open the professions up to competition.

The OFT said the fee guidance should be scrapped because it "could act to restrict or distort price competition". The RIBA hit back, arguing that its guidance is a tool for clients and that the proposal could hurt small practices. It said: "The average salary of architects in 2000 was £30,000, and one in four earned less than £20,000." The RIBA will be writing to Blair next week to say that the OFT's recommendations are in conflict with government promises to champion good design and urban regeneration and show a lack of co-ordinated thinking.

RIBA head of governmental relations Jonathon Labrey said: "It sends out the wrong messages. There seems to be a lack of joined-up thinking." The RIBA also intends to write to arts minister and design champion Alan Howarth, competitions minister Kim Howells and chief secretary to the treasury Andrew Smith.

The report calls for changes to the rules governing professional bodies to permit different disciplines to set up multidisciplinary practices.

If this recommendation became law, it would permit QS firms to practice as lawyers and accountants. The report says multidisciplinary practices offer numerous benefits: for instance, lower overheads and more flexibility, helping smaller businesses in particular.

What the OFT says on fee guidance

“The OFT believes that it could act to restrict or distort price competition. In particular, it may hinder the ability of efficient service providers to compete by reducing price to reflect their lower costs. At the same time, it may protect those who are less efficient and reduce the incentive they have to improve.”