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ACE plays down talk of mandatory fee campaign


CONSULTANTS THIS week distanced themselves from reports that they were to lobby the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to reintroduce mandatory fee scales.

The Association of Consulting Engineers (ACE) said that having mandatory fee scales would breach competitive trading rules.

ACE officials played down reports of a campaign for mandatory fee levels after the chairman of its fees taskforce said he would be speaking to the OFT about having them reinstated (News last week).

The officials said they would be lobbying government and clients for higher fees and better contract terms, and would be discussing the matter with the OFT. But they refused to back demands for the mandatory introduction of fee scales.

Mandatory fee scales were outlawed in 1986 after the OFT ruled them to be anti-competitive. ACE fees taskforce chairman Andrew Dutton said there may be a case for reintroducing them because of the risk that low fees would lead to 'market failure' among consultants. Dutton is a partner at consultant Hurst Peirce & Malcolm.

This week, the ACE warned that low fees, coupled with the soaring cost of professional indemnity (PI) insurance, could force many firms out of business.

Firms renewing their PI cover this year are facing 20%-200% increases in their premiums, according to one insurance industry expert.

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