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Code of Practice faces 'pedantic' OFT pressure

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is again dictating the RIBA's Code of Practice by insisting members only use the plural 'architects' in their name if their practices employ more than one RIBA member, writes Clive Walker.

A draft copy of the forthcoming Code of Practice, leaked to the AJ, is designed to tighten-up rules surrounding business names, demanding practices reassess the way they describe themselves.

The news follows OFT pressure on the RIBA last year to scrap its recommended fees guidance and competition rules (AJ 4.12.03).

'The plural [chartered architects] can only legitimately be used [in letterheadings, practice names, or elsewhere] to signify more than one charted member, ' the new code says.

It also has criticism for big firms. 'Large multidisciplined organisations may not refer to themselves as fichartered architectsfl in their letter headings simply because one or two of their staff are chartered members of the RIBA, ' it adds.

The existing code contains guidance on practice names but, according to the RIBA's practice director Richard Brindley, OFT pressure meant it was in need of updating and clarification.

'The new Code of Practice draws attention to issues of fair trading on the guidance of the OFT, ' said Brindley. 'It will create greater public confidence and promote professionalism.'

But John Wright, former RIBA presidential candidate and the chairman of FM Modern Design, believes the RIBA's 'pedantic' approach to business names could hinder the profession and confuse clients.

'Using the term fichartered architectsfl is a standard legal entity for a firm, irrespective of the number of professionals working within it.

The RIBA is being far too pedantic, ' said Wright.

'Using the plural fiarchitectsfl is standard English. A practice is always known as a firm of architects, irrespective of whether the firm has one architect or a number of professional architects working for it.

'You can't say fia firm of architectfl. I will be having a word with the RIBA about this issue.

This does not help the profession or our clients, ' he added.

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