PracticeConsultingCowboy accountants worry

Cowboy accountants worry

Concerns are growing that the Office of Fair Trading's investigation into competition in the accountancy profession could lead to a slackening of rules and a surge in 'cowboy accountants'.

The Scots ICA has urged the competition watchdog to restrict entry to accountancy warning of the need to stop unqualified accountants from misleading the public into believing they hold professional qualifications.

The warning comes in response to the OFT’s investigation into the accountancy profession following requests from Treasury ministers and the Department of Trade and Industry.

Institute president Grenville Johnston said: ‘No one would want to be treated by an untrained doctor. Anyone can set up in business as an accountant without any formal training and without the need for any initial or continuing assessment of their competence. Clearly, this situation is not good for the safety of the public.’

Johnston’s fears are echoed by Peter Owen, executive director of the Professional Standards Office of the English ICA, who said the profession was already open and the restrictions that did exist were only in place to ‘protect the public’. ACCA has also voiced similar concerns.

Among the areas under investigation are tight entry standards, restrictions on advertising and fee scales.

The Treasury is also concerned that exclusion of accountancy and law from the Competition Act, which came into force on 1 March this year, is distorting the market.

Accountants given four weeks to argue profession is not anti-competitive

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