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Ministers inspect OFT paper on anti-competitive practices

A potentially damning report on anti-competitive practices in architecture landed on the desks of cabinet heavyweights Gordon Brown and Stephen Byers late last week.

The duo will mull over the Office of Fair Trading findings (AJ 11.01.01) before deciding on action, including possible changes to statute.

The report on competition across professions, including accountancy, law and architecture, is expected to tell the Chancellor and the trade and industry secretary that architects' use of indicative fee scales amounts to a restrictive practice, and that the length of time it takes to qualify as an architect acts as a barrier to those wishing to enter the profession, rather than a guarantee of quality.

The RIBA is preparing to fight back against the claims, which could shake-up the way the profession is managed.

'On length of training, we believe the customer is best served by people who are well trained and competent in their field, ' said chief executive Richard Hastilow. 'On the matter of fee scales, these are indications and a basis for negotiations - customers say they find them useful to do budgeting and planning. Any strong action should be balanced by the government's own drive to protect standards in the profession.'

The RIBA will also argue that there are no grounds to allegations that some practices operate a cartel, fixing prices and defending market share.

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