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Registration is to protect consumers

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Letters

Paul Hyett feels that there is confusion and inconsistency surrounding registration. Confusion there may be, inconsistency there is not.

Registration exists to protect the consumer, just like CORGI gas fitting.

If a consumer employs an 'architect', the consumer knows that the architect has achieved a certain standard of education, is expected to maintain certain professional standards and (at the end of this month) carries professional indemnity insurance.

CORGI has managed to get that over to the public - it is now up to the ARB to do the equivalent. When that is so the consumer will be able to make a clear and informed choice.

If architects dislike the imposition placed on them by registration, the process is probably doing a good job for the consumer.

If someone trained as an architect carries out one of the numerous 'fringe' activities but insists on using the title, he has to register.

Anything otherwise and the consumer might be misled.

If someone doesn't wish to take out professional indemnity insurance, he cannot be registered and practise as an architect. Anything otherwise and the consumer might be misled. Even the smallest one-off job can have disastrous effects if it goes wrong. To suggest that a consumer is entitled to less protection because he chooses a small practitioner is absurd. It is just as reasonable to suggest a lower level of competence for the smallest one-off job.

To talk about protecting the function rather than the title is an admission that architects can no longer compete in the marketplace. If that is true, the consumer is entitled to make a choice, but the profession is not entitled to hide behind protectionism. Both the BIAT and the RICS insist on professional indemnity insurance so that going to one of their members gives guaranteed protection if the roof leaks. The building may not be as pretty but most consumers are more interested in the function anyway.

Incidentally, Paul Hyett is in the wrong - anyone can issue a writ, it is being paid for it that is the offence (s22, Solicitors Act 1974).

If Baden Hellard was not carrying on business using his FRIBA, the ARB would not have been interested. The fact that he did use it suggests that he thought it of some value. It matters not that he was practising as an arbitrator, he was suggesting to the public that he was an architect with the duties that involves. If FRIBA does turn out to suggest that the holder is an architect, then he was liable to mislead the consumer.

Far more serious for the future of the profession is the indication that the RIBA is prepared to say that it doesn't require any standards from someone using the suffix FRIBA. In the case of Baden Hellard, it seems that the institute doesn't even require a subscription. If the courts decide that the letters F/A/RIBA, in effect, have no meaning I really can't see anything to prevent everyone using the suffix. The losers will be the institute and the profession, not the ARB.

MALCOM C NICKOLLS By e-mail

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