OFT review of professional rules: an opportunity for agencies?

The OFT’s announcement this week that it is to conduct an enquiry into professional rules which, among other things, restrict advertising should be of interest to advertising agencies.  The market for professional services in the UK is worth more than £25 billion, with lawyers and accountantstaking the lion’s share.  If rules that prevent professionals from including (and comparing) charges in advertisements were relaxed, some lawyers and accountants could be expected to take advantage of this before long, and others would inevitably follow suit.

Until the entry into force of the Competition Act 1998 on 1 March this year, the OFT’s powers were limited.  Under the Act it is clear that the onus will now be on professionals to justify their rules which restrict the contents of advertisements.

UK competition practice is supposed to follow the EC’s.  Such activity as there has been in Brussels suggests that the professions will have an uphill task in justifying restrictions.

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