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ARB slams OFT's 'myopic' anti-competitive allegations

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The ARB's 15-strong board met last week to condemn the Office of Fair Trading's report into the architectural profession as 'inaccurate', 'outrageous' and 'myopic'. The ARB agreed to draft a response to the paper this week to counter concerns that the architectural profession operates practices which restrict free trade.

The report, commissioned by the Treasury and written by consultant LECG, is critical of architects for the recommended fee-scale system operated by the RIBA and for tough education requirements (including CPD) that could act as a barrier to entering the profession (AJ 11.1.01).

But ARB board members dismissed it. Deputy chairman Owen Luder said: 'If anybody thinks the architecture profession is not totally competitive at the moment, then they want to try practising as an architect.'

After the meeting, ARB chief executive Robin Vaughan told the AJ that he will attempt to counter the OFT's charges by correcting the report's 'numerous' inaccuracies and refuting the more substantial complaint that the ARB's tough regulatory powers act as a restraint on free trade. 'We want to make the point to the OFT that no legal protection of function means that anyone can go around doing anything. So the fact that a group of people want to sign up to something to say they are doing things correctly is in the consumer's interest, ' he said.

'It is established policy from the Department for Education and Employment that we should be a learning society. It seems the OFT is proposing to government that we should abandon that.'

Vaughan will also concentrate on fee-scales. He said one of the inaccuracies of the report is that it labours under the misapprehension that fee-scales are mandatory - there have been guidelines since the mid 1980s. He pointed out that the ARB code of conduct requires only that architects agree terms openly and show how fees have been calculated.

The board meeting also saw Barbara Kelly and Owen Luder re-elected unopposed as chairman and deputy chairman of the ARB respectively. It was widely expected that Kelly, a lay member of the board, would stand down.

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