ICAS scraps it out in the tabloids

ICAS has moved to ‘fight fire with fire’ by allowing its insolvency practitioners to join a head-to-head advertising battle against debt management companies (DMCs) in an Edinburgh newspaper.

The Scottish institute moved to tackle the ‘unfair’ advantage unregulated DMCs enjoy over practitioners by reversing its traditional disapproval of generating work through ads.

Starting this week for three weeks, it will place articles in the Metro newspaper extolling the virtues of the profession, alongside ads for individual practitioners. Many qualified professionals offer free first consultations and there has been anger at ‘exploitation’ by DMCs that do charge, often only to refer debtors to a practitioner.

Anne Bryce, head of insolvency at ICAS, said the idea came to her when she picked up the free paper.

‘I just opened a Metro one day and thought “blast it”. I saw these DMCs advertising in a sensational way and thought it might be useful to use the same medium, so we are fighting fire with fire by taking out a page.’ Adverts would have to be ‘professional’ and avoid references to price, she added.

The move was broadly welcomed. Nick Hood of Begbies Traynor said: ‘It’s a very good thing because it expands the market for quality advice.’

He said he would be ‘very, very surprised’ if IPs gave self-serving advice by pushing the insolvency option.

Bryan Jackson, managing partner of PKF in Scotland, said: ‘While dignified and well intended, the (previous stance) did little to protect the interests of people with personal debt.’

Despite traditional conservatism on promotions, the ICAEW and IPA said their rules don’t ban members from advertising. But Peter Joyce, IPA director general, said any publicity should be dignified and contain no ‘inappropriate’ headlines or graphics of the kind that ‘appeal to some Mirror readers’.

However, Mark Allen, of Grant Thornton, said: ‘The idea of trying to exclude Mirror readers does not appeal to me because I am sure there are lots of Mirror readers who need our help. You can be professional and modern at the same time.’

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