Accounting price comparison site sparks fee debate

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Gina Dyer speaks to Tom Bishop, founder of the first online accountancy price comparison service, accountantsquoteme.co.uk.

We’ve compared meerkats, got confused.com about home insurance and learnt why it’s good to uswitch energy providers, and now a new site is offering clients the opportunity to compare prices for accountancy services.

Founded by ex accountant Tom Bishop and website developer John Ayres, accountantsquoteme.co.uk allows individual clients and businesses to compare quotes for services like bookkeeping, VAT, payroll, final accounts and management accounts. Just like car insurance price comparison sites such as comparethemarket.com, clients can select the service they require, generate an online quote and select their accountant based on price. Users can a...

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Gina Dyer
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04th Sep 2009 22:13

Way to go

This kind of transparency for the clients will ultimate help them make smarter purhcaising decisions.

Clearly it will take some time - however, the challenge for Tom and his team is to deliver to the community he has now created.

I wish him all the best

Clive Hyman

exKPMG Partner

www.hymancapital.com

 

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04th Sep 2009 23:57

An Opportunity for Businesses and Accountants

Hello,

Kind comments, thank you very much Clive - a former KPMG Partner! Accountants and Businesses have bombarded our site in our first week of trading – many very curious I think. Try it. This website is completely “User driven” by both Accountants and Businesses. If you have any feedback or suggestions for us to improve our service then please contact me [email protected]  – I promise to listen to everyone. Here are some facts I’d like to share with you, a) The website has now had around 300,000 hits in the first week of trading, and this figure is rapidly growing, b)Over 200 Accountants from all over the world but mainly the UK, have expressed great interest in our first week. The rest are obviously Businesses keen to explore - or sneaky Accountants monitoring competitor rates, c) How do Businesses really know they are being charged fairly by their Accountant? d) How do Accountants know they are charging competitively? e) How do Businesses know whether one Accountant is better than another? f) I spent 14 months working hard with our team and many Businesses and Accountants to come up with this service with the team to help benefit all parties.The intention of this website is to offer a)  Accountants in Practice an “Effortless Growth Strategy", b) Businesses the ability to compare the market, c) Businesses the ability to consider outsourcing VAT, Payroll and Bookkeeping and more...... d) Recruitment firms charge businesses a hefty fee for temporary finance staff when they are needed. This service now offers an alternative – outsourcing work to Accountants through the site. We also have an ongoing improvement program designed to serve the community. I look forward to your input. Yours sincerely, Tom Bishop. Co-founder www.accountantsquoteme.co.uk

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By Anonymous
05th Sep 2009 19:26

Absolute tripe....Endorsed by a big4 as well

Price comp sites are 10 a penny e.g. Appoved Index,Nextag and servicestart and now acco..me

The ideal is not now it is just the prunes dont know about them

And it just goes to show the big4 really ARE stupid !

 

 

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By Anonymous
05th Sep 2009 19:33

As usual,buyer beware !

These sites charge for referrals,not sign ups !

Is it a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Guess who is going to profit from multiple referrals ?

 

 

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06th Sep 2009 20:58

www.accountantsquoteme.co.uk

Hello,

I am responding to the most recent comment because I feel this clarification is important.

We do not charge for any referrals\leads because we do not provide any referrals\leads. Businesses themselves select their own Accountant through our service. This is a new concept for this sector. I call it the "Effortless Growth Strategy for Professional Accountants".

Here is some further information on how we work:

http://www.accountantsquoteme.co.uk/AccountantsQuoteMe/Visitor/AccountantForm1.aspx

If you would like to know more please contact us directly.

Best regards

Tom.

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By Anonymous
07th Sep 2009 10:51

Excuse me.....

But if you have to pay before POTENTIAL clients details are supplied,is that not payment in advance for a clients details who may or may not sign a letter of engagement ?

 

We may live in an age of confusion marketing but is not just outright .........

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By Anonymous
07th Sep 2009 11:43

intresting but will it de-value quality of service?

Hi.

Can you really just choose an accountant based on price? Insurance you can, but professional services? I think it will reduce the quality of the service accountants offer.

For example, Qualified Accountant (ICAEW ACCA AFA CIMA AAT etc etc), years of training, lot's of knowledge and experience, can care for the needs of their clients in many aspects. Their fee could be £500 (as an example). They are thorough, and client get's full job. Perhaps they have good AAT/IAB/ICB assisting them.

So along comes mr/miss/mrs un-qualified, done a quick book-keeping course perhaps, looks at the site. Cool, I can charge £400 and clean up. Now, if all that's pushed is "price price price" then the client will think that all people give the same quality of service, and base their choice purely on price.

Now, qualified accountant is pushed toward reducing their fees; how can they afford this? By cutting corners. So they don't check the records as much. They don't research as far into interaction of different aspects to help their client reduce tax or improve their business. They can't afford the AAT/IAB/ICB assistant and so sacks them and get's a non-experienced non-qualified assistant who is paid less.

By making too much emphasis on fees prices we loose the professionalism and quality drops.

And how can you give a price to comeplete a VAT return without seeing the amount of paperwork involved? One client might generate just 1 or 2 invoices a month but another with similar turnover could generate 10 a day.

Price should be a part of choosing an accountant, but it shouldn't be the number one consideration. I feel this site will push it that way, giving people the idea that it's just a case of form filling and everyone can do the same quality work. I'm afraid it isn't.

Unless of course in your "vetting" proceedure you only allow qualified accountants onto the site. If that's the case I think it is a good idea.

Just so you know, I have never lost a client based on price. I have lost 3 clients over 18 years in practise, 2 who moved away, and one because i refused to lie about his income. So I am not bitter about lower pricing. I'm probably too cheap! Er sorry I mean good value....

Another thing that strike me is that the site will push "potential clients" to you. Then the accountant has to pay a fee for the details of the "potential client". I trust that there will be some clawback if the "potential client" doesn't become a client, just like with the insurance system?

This sounds like the letters I get through the door every week that say "we have 100 potential clients in your area. Pay us money and we'll pass on the names and addresses of potential clients...".

Apologies for my negativity. I've had a bad weekend.

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07th Sep 2009 13:08

Letter of Engagement

Hello again,

In the process of selecting an Accountant the Business user must agree to the Accountant's Letter of Engagement \ Terms.

The many Accountant's across the country now offering their services through the site have all uploaded their Letter of Engagement.

We do have vetting procedures throughout the system.

Regarding who can and should be able to offer Accountancy services (regardless of qualifications) is something not for me to answer. Anyone can set up shop and call themselves an Accountant - unlike in other professions, i.e. Solicitors.

We represent Professional Accountants.

If you have any more questions I'm happy to answer them.

Best regards

Tom.

 

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07th Sep 2009 13:40

good idea, badly done?

I was going to resist commenting on this site as I have looked at it on Friday and again yesterday.

My opinion, it has merit but has been badly done. First off the thing looks like it was designed by a 10 year old and is clunky to say the least.

I registered and entered 3 quotes, putting in t/o, sales transactions etc. First off get 5 quotes ranging from £600 - £2500. Bit drastic differences but I would suppose the website works out the fee based on parameters you set as a service provider so if you get them wrong you generate a daft quotes. Noted 4 of the 5 quotes were for firms around Cheshire/Staffordshire oddly precisely where 123 Quoteme Ltd is based.

2nd quote, put in bigger company in terms of t/over etc. Same 5 firms came back but in different order, again quotes wide ranging from crazy low to crazy high. 3rd quote, accidentally pressed back and it requoted on same data but gave completely different prices but again same 5 firms.

4 of the 5 firms I was able to track down online in 5 seconds each, which would be serious risk for never getting paid for leads. But annoyingly, no further information is available on the quotes, the "terms and conditions" pages are simply a copy of a letter of engagement which 90% of is standard and tells me nothing about the firm.

 

 

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07th Sep 2009 14:29

Thank you for your feedback

Hello,

The reason why the prices are changing so frequently is due to the fact that more and more accountants are coming on board (and from all over the UK) to offer their services. Possibly some Accountants are monitoring competitor fees and are chopping and changing their chargeout rates too?

We are introducing new functionality soon so that businesses will be able to view even more information about the Accountants offering through the site. This was always in the plan.

This is a user driven site and we are listening to everyone's feedback and comments - thank you to everyone who has contributed so far.

Best regards

Tom.

 

 

 

 

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By Anonymous
07th Sep 2009 18:08

What a pigs ear !

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08th Sep 2009 10:58

Oh dear!

I have no problem with this concept, why not have a price comparison site?  However, I hope that there is a facility to add feedback / user ratings as with, say, Amazon etc.  But, oh dear, the site design is ghastly! 

Adrian Pearson
www.topaccountants.com

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08th Sep 2009 12:46

Congratulations on the New Venture!

I'd like to congratulate the two founders on the highly creative new concept.

Personally I can't see what the fuss is about.

I also can't see the value in some of the comments above which lack substance? Pointless contributions.

The site looks good to me - clean, easy to use and within 2 minutes you can have instant quotes. You can't go wrong? What's a good website? It is in one's opinion. Every site has a weakness or weaknesses. Clearly these guys have put alot of hard and creative work into delivering this. Tom has already said feedback is welcome and that this is user driven.

Many congratulations gentlemen!

Clearly you'll rock the boat with the FAT CATS.

John.

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By Anonymous
08th Sep 2009 20:29

sdddf

If it was aimed at the big4 maybe true

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By Anonymous
08th Sep 2009 23:02

you r barking up the wrong tree !

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By Anonymous
11th Sep 2009 22:05

Are the BIG 4 Quoting on the site?

Are the BIG 4 quoting on the site? If not, I wonder why?

They are probably still in shock this now exists.

They simply cannot compete.

Does any one know if the BIG 4 are quoting through the site?

J

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15th Sep 2009 00:39

One of the reasons why www.accountantsquoteme.co.uk today exists

I was once the management accountant for a multi million pound business. When I joined the firm my instinct was that the audit fees were quite high. For assurance I telephoned several local accountants (that I would say were medium sized) - all Chartered Practices, to see what they would charge. The question begged why were we, at the time, being charged £90k per year but quoted £20K by another like for like qualified practice?
How on earth could this price variation take place for the same service by accountants with identical qualifications in the same region? This posed serious questions. This is what motivated me to help many others to judge whether or not they are being charged fairly by launching the World's first Accountancy Price Comparison site in the UK.

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By Anonymous
17th Sep 2009 12:24

Nice idea but too simplistic

This site is a great idea (although not entirely original or revolutionary), but hit has serious shortcomings. 

 

The quoting mechanism seems to be either a fixed fee (based on turnover ranges) or automated based upon hourly charge out rates and estimated transaction processing speed per hour.  Frankly neither of these is sophisticated enough to provide sensible quoting.  I can't imagine trying to quote for an audit based entirely on the basis if trunover - it would be suicidal!  Even final accounts quoting is a minefield.  Imagine two identically sized businesses, one with a bin bag full of invoices (some missing) and bank statements and another with fully posted and reconciled Sage.  The quoting model on this site can't distinguish between the two - madness! 

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17th Sep 2009 13:06

Everyone is entitled to an opinion.... try it yourself and see w

Hello,

Just to respond to the above opinion expressed, this system was designed and created by accountants and businesses for accountants and businesses.

This is totally user driven.

I always welcome suggestions and useful, constructive comments in the best interest of all users.

My direct email address is [email protected] should anybody want to contact me directly with feedback and suggestions.

Best regards,

Tom Bishop.

 

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18th Sep 2009 01:04

Superman idiot!

Hello Mark Lee,

Following your comments here: http://www.accountingweb.co.uk/topic/practice/top-five-mistakes-made-small-firms

You quoted "This is not really a price comparison site - nor could it be. It's a pitching facility for accountants who are desperate to secure work by quoting low hourly rates. I speak as someone who isn't in practice any more so I have no axe to grind."

I think your comments are an insult to the Professional Accountants offering their serivces through our site, and those not. Ofcourse there are Accountants desperate for work in these times. There are also smart Professional Accountants who are able to compete better than others on price and service - based upon their business model.

No you don't have an axe to grind - being Chairman of Tax Advice Network. Ironic?

This is a price comparison, the first, the only in this arena.

Ladies and gentlemen I welcome you to try it yourself.

Superman, welcome to the real world.

Best regards,

Tom Bishop.

 

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18th Sep 2009 09:39

Tom

Of course there are accountants who can compare better than others on price and service based on their buisness model, unfortunately such business models can include simple processing of data given to them by their clients, by lower paid employees.  Data purely converted from client records into accounts production software without any though or expertise applied as to the consequenses (usually disclaimed to the hilt within the engagement letters).

Alternatively, what's to stop us all going on there and quoting a ridiculous price and outsourcing it all to India whilst still making a good profit?

Could you tell me, in your opinion, who are the lower cost accountants from:

1. The firm charging £300.00 to process a trial balance into accounts production software without any reconciliation or analysis, client has a tax liability for £17,000 and is left exposed in the event of invetsigation; or

2.  The firm who do a thorough job for £1,500.00, pro actively advises and seeks out tax saving opportunites esulting in client paying £10,000.00 in tax, and fully able to refute any challenge from HMRC.

Regards, Jason

 

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18th Sep 2009 11:57

Not Superman - Batman and Robin!

Mark Lee, is Jason your Robin?

He seems to be everywhere you appear.

Robin/ Jason, why dont you go on the site and find out yourself.

Best regards

Tom Bishop.

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18th Sep 2009 13:03

Tom

I'm not looking for a fight and won't be drawn into a public slanging match.

Mark

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18th Sep 2009 14:19

Holy Cow!

Thanks Tom you have brightened up an already good day!

If we are to do Batman tags then we now all know who The Joker is.

I appear here at your earlier request on another thread, you invited me personally and gave me the link.

You asked me to read your experience to understand the concept, well I have read it and have pointed out (what I perceive to be) several major flaws and asked you how you would respond.  You have not addressed any of these concerns either mine or other posters, choosing to reply in a manner which you may look back and feel a little embarrassed about on reflection.

Anyway good luck with it all, im bored now, I have far more important things to do with my time - this city won't police itself.

 

 

 

 

 

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18th Sep 2009 14:54

Batman and Robin return again....

Haven't you boys got work to do?

Best regards

Tom.

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19th Sep 2009 09:56

Pathetic

On the basis that you posted your ramblings at 23.04 on a Friday night I can only assume you had just got back from the pub when you posted the above.

It was never my intention to cause the offence I clearly have, you invited me to your site.  Within your claim  that you will listen to all comments I was unaware that you only meant favourable ones. 

I have never claimed to be successful, I have a long, long way to go and much more to achieve before I would ever say that about myself.

A very wise man once told me never to argue with an idiot as it will only make two, so this is my final post on here to you.

If that signifies victory to you, then fill your boots.

I'll let you have the last word that you so clearly crave.

 

EDIT: I see that you have now deleted the offending post and thank you for the courtesy of doing so.

 

 

 

 

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By Anonymous
21st Sep 2009 01:26

What's going on?

Hey

What's going on here? What started out as a constructive discussion seems to have degenerated into a childish scrap.

Tom - you were keeping cool and professional. Calm down. Big deep breath. You have to keep it professional or you'll loose all credibility. Take the comments and even if they're daft, keep your responses professional. As an accountant potentially looking to "advertise" on your site, I am nervous to do so due to your rising to the bait.

Phwew.

 

 

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21st Sep 2009 09:06

Do you really pay for what you get? How do they know?

Hello,

I think businesses can be misled with statements suggesting "you pay for what you get".

I believe, through my own experiences too, that this is not always true.

Regardless of price, how does a business know how good their Accountant is? As I have said, you'd probably need to be an Accountant to make a good judgement.

One idea received is to introduce a user rating system to the site.

I'd be delighted to hear ideas on how this could work - fair for all.

Best regards

Tom Bishop.

 

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21st Sep 2009 15:38

How could this work?

Tom

In answer to your question as to how a ratings sytem could work, you might be interested in my experiences and ideas. Then again, given your earlier comments on this thread you may not, but for what it's worth - and to show I don't consider myself to be any kind of super hero....

When I launched the Tax Advice Network, I determined that it would be helpful if accountants could rate the tax adviser members who they used and to leave testimonials for them. The idea being that this would help subsequent users of the system.

I talked to a number of other people who had attempted to introduce such systems for professional service providers. I took on board their suggestions and have learned from experience that they were right as regards the limited extent to which users would populate the system. It's something I'm still working on.

I did listen however and kept it simple. This is apprarent in two respects:

1 - The rating facility is simply 'good' or nothing. 

To have any form of stars or numercial rating system would lead to inconsistencies as different people would apply different standards and would have different expectations. Thus comparisons would be difficult. It was pointed out to me that users would be less likely to 'vote' if they had to choose a 'score'; and I was also told that if one adviser was rated 5 out of 5 by the first 3 accountants whom they helped, they could be 'miffed' if their 'average' score then dropped. They might want to have a later rating removed if they felt it was unfair and that the user had been unreasonable. To avoid having to discuss and debate such possibilities I kept it simple.

2 - The comments facility focuses on testimonials

These however do not go 'live' until approved by the tax adviser. This is to avoid negative comments being visible to all - bearing in mind that problems, if they arise, can be due to a mismatch of expectations and are not always due to poor service. The deal with our tax adviser members is that I can see all testimonial comments that are posted and would always want to explore with them any that they chose not to make public. In the event if a trend developed the adviser might be asked to leave the Network. In the event there have been no negative comments posted.

Having said all that. we still have some work to do to encourage more users to rate the tax advisers and to provide testimonials. Whilst I kept the systems simple, the navigation to find out how to rate and leave testimonials is not what it could be. Also there is no incentive to return to the website and to rate the tax advisers or to leave testimonials - so there are very few on our site at the moment. 

I would suggest that you too will need to focus on overcoming such issues if you plan to develop any form of useful ratings system - which I evidently have yet to achieve.

Mark Lee

Tax Advice Network

 

 

 

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26th Jun 2012 20:11

What happened to this...?

Looks like it didn't work.

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12th Jul 2012 09:15

Hmmm. nearly 3 years on and the site is down - or gone

Would be interested to know what happened. 

Mark

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