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OFT forces RIBA hand over bidding wars

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The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is set to force the RIBA to make radical changes to its Code of Practice. The move will compel the institute to support bidding wars for major schemes.

The agency has given the institute a four-month ultimatum to drop the pivotal Clause 3.3 that prevents practices undercutting one another after bids have been made public.

The OFT launched an investigation in May after a member of the public complained that the clause stops architects lowering their quotes 'to take account of the fee quoted by another architect'.

Following negotiations, the RIBA practice committee has now agreed to suspend it pending formal abolition at a full Council meeting in September.

But a spokeswoman for the agency told the AJ that the inquiry is far from over. 'We are waiting to see if the RIBA responds satisfactorily before we decide on our next step, ' she said.

RIBA vice-president of practice Richard Saxon said the institute was left with 'very little choice'. 'The OFT told us that this was not compatible with their rules. They told us that we are not allowed it in our code and instructed us to publish a withdrawal, ' he said.

However, Saxon insisted that the institute had already been reconsidering the clause. 'We thought it seemed a little out-ofdate. Many practices still undercut each other even though this clause exists.'

But London Region chair Simon Foxell said the institute was still opposed to bidding wars. 'We may make our views very clear in our policy, but it is apparent that we are not allowed to say it in the code, ' he said.

'The OFT was very forceful, ' Foxell added. 'There was no room for negotiation. But thankfully it does not want to change any other rules like supplanting practices on projects'.

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