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RIBA draft aims to set story straight on price-fixing claim

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The RIBA is set to release its revised guidelines to clients regarding architects' fees and expenses, in response to an ongoing debate with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

The move comes in response to the OFT's claims that the indicative fee scales set by the RIBA in its publication A Client's Guide to Engaging an Architect inhibit free competition within the industry and are tantamount to price fixing.

The RIBA has always vigorously denied these allegations, suggesting that the OFT has been guilty of 'constructively misconstruing' the point of the fee scales. But the institute has had to act after the OFT laid out its criticisms last year in a report into competition within the profession.

The RIBA hopes that simply amending the guidelines will be enough to satisfy the watchdog.

Its revision updates the presentation of the guidelines and clarifies that they are merely advisory.

RIBA director of practice Keith Snook hopes that these moves will assuage OFT concerns over the guidelines while still providing clients with useful information.

'It will be made even more clear in the document that this information is aimed at the client, ' said Snook. 'Those wishing to hire an architect have always found this information very useful.

The British are traditionally a bit reticent about talking about money up front and tend to like this sort of treatment.'

Snook expects to submit the draft to the OFT within the month, at which point the OFT will decide whether or not it meets its needs. If it does not, the OFT says that it will pursue the issue.

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