‘Nothing to fear’, says profession as competition watchdog moves in

Peter Owen, executive director of the Professional Standards Office of the English ICA, said accountancy was already an ‘open’ profession that only used restrictions to protect the public.

‘It’s not a very closed profession, we don’t just have a single professional body,’ he said.

After requests from DTI and Treasury ministers, the OFT said last Thursday it would examine accountancy and law, professions that are excluded from existing provisions of the competition legislation.

A spokesman for Ernst & Young said accountancy was already a ‘highly competitive market place and we have no doubt an OFT report will draw attention to this.’

Tight standards for entry to accountancy, along with restrictions on advertising, and whether some accountancy work can be opened up to people without the accepted professional qualifications, are the three main areas the OFT will examine.

Many in the profession believe the OFT was taken by surprise when asked to look at accountancy though the investigations appear to follow concerns at the Treasury that exclusion of the profession from the Competition Act, which came into force on 1 March this year, is distorting the market.

However, some observers believe the investigation may be a direct result of a desire among ministers to be seen to be protecting the rights of consumers.The OFT has confirmed no details about the scope of the investigation so far but hopes to report to ministers later in the year.

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