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Accountant trying to poach clients

A standard letter suggesting accounting deadline near and referring to penalties (incorrect)

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A client with a year end 31/12 has received a clearly standard letter written in a manner to frighten the client that accounts will soon be overdue and offering services to avoid this.

The date format is 9/30/2021 so clearly a database produced letter.

In fact the accounts have already been filed for that year and next due are 31/12/21 due 30/9/22

The firm is Chartered.

Is ICAEW ok with this type of marketing? (I'm FCCA)

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By David Ex
01st Sep 2021 17:09

pushtheriver wrote:

Is ICAEW ok with this type of marketing? (I'm FCCA)

Sounds rather shoddy but without knowing what the letter says, it’s difficult to know whether it’s ethical or not.

EDIT: If the details aren’t correct then it’s certainly unprofessional.

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By Paul Crowley
01st Sep 2021 17:09

Firms have sent out all kind of stuff in the past
Going back at least 15 years a local firm wrote quite personalised letters to local companies
One of our clients received a letter asking
Has your accountant told you that you could take £xxx tax free from your company?
The £xxx being the directors loan account
Client showed it to us and said that we would not believe how many letters he got from other firms

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By David Ex
01st Sep 2021 17:19

Extract from ICAEW marketing ethics guidelines:

WHAT FIRMS MUST NOT DO
When undertaking marketing or promotional activities, firms must not bring the profession into disrepute (paragraph R115.2 of the ICAEW Code of Ethics). Specifically, firms must not do the following within their advertising (note that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list).

Make disparaging statements

Firms must not say anything in their promotional material that is disparaging of or discredits the practice or services of others. For example, it would not be acceptable to say ‘we provide a better service than X firm in Manchester’ even if such a statement is objectively and demonstrably true. It would, however, be acceptable to say ‘we pride ourselves on the service we provide’.

Make unsubstantiated claims of size or superiority

Firms should be careful not to make claims that they cannot substantiate. Firms should make it clear on what basis any claim is being made and ensure that it is justified. For example, if a firm claims to be the leading or most widely-used accountancy practice in a given area, they should make it clear on the face of the promotional material the basis or information on which the claim is made. We advise utmost caution in this respect.

Make exaggerated claims

Firms shall not make exaggerated claims for services offered, qualifications possessed, or experience gained. Firms should ensure that claims made are appropriately substantiated, justifiable and not misleading in any way.
Make unsubstantiated comparisons
Firms shall not make unsubstantiated comparisons to the work of another. Where firms intend to make comparisons, they should ensure that such comparisons:
• Are objective and not misleading;
• Relate to the same services;
• Are factual and verifiable (firms should have supporting documentation); and
• Do not discredit or denigrate the practice or services of others.

Harass a potential client

As outlined in paragraph R115.3 of the ICAEW Code of Ethics, services must not be promoted in such a way, or to such an extent as to amount to harassment of a potential client. The term ‘harassment’ has not been defined in the code.

One or two follow-up mailshots to a non-client over a reasonable period of time might not, by themselves, amount to harassment. However, repeated telephone calls or visits to a prospective client who is clearly not interested could result in a complaint. Although such a complaint would need to be supported by evidence that the recipient was subject to actual harassment, you should be sensitive to the fact that some people are more likely to feel harassed than others.
Firms should also be reminded that where consent is being relied upon as the lawful basis for processing personal data, under the GDPR such consent can be withdrawn at any time and where an individual withdraws consent they should not be contacted with further marketing materials. For direct marketing, opt outs must also be clear and should be adhered to.

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By thevaliant
02nd Sep 2021 00:42

Years ago I lived in a flat, and ran the flat management company. Prepared the accounts for free.
I started getting letters from a local firm offering to do the accounts 'cheaper' and 'better' than my current accountant.
I eventually wrote back and told them they had no possibility of meeting either claim unless they wanted to pay the company for their services. Added my full name and ACA after it.
They did take my address off the marketing list after that.

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Replying to thevaliant:
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By Paul Crowley
02nd Sep 2021 09:45

The 'better' probably not allowed.

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By pushtheriver
02nd Sep 2021 09:47

I'm of an age to remember when advertising of any kind was not allowed. I know things move on but as David says this is rather shoddy. It seems to be the "in thing" to frighten people into engaging your services. I wouldn't want a firm with that mindset to look after my affairs.
Thanks all for your replies.

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Replying to pushtheriver:
Slim
By Slim
02nd Sep 2021 11:01

Yep. One of my relatives received a letter which was very demanding and made to look very much like it had come from HMRC and he did indeed think it was HMRC.

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A Putey FACA
By Arthur Putey
02nd Sep 2021 11:33

A local firm persists in sending letters to companies who use us as their registered office, which we return as not known, just to wind them up.

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By Duggimon
02nd Sep 2021 12:31

You're very restrained, were I you and making this post I wouldn't have seen any reason not to name the firm. It's not defamation if you're accurately reporting the content of the letter.

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