Law Soc backs DLA Piper OFT complaint

DLA Piper OFT complaint” />The Law Society has endorsed DLA Piper’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) complaint against the Association of Professional Political Consultants (APPC) for anticompetitive behaviour.

As The Lawyer revealed last week (10 September), DLA Piper referred the APPC to the OFT, claiming the association is trying to persuade Government agencies to work exclusively with its members on lobbying issues.

Law Society chief executive Des Hudson said his organisation is shocked that firms should be forced into voluntary membership in order to secure work.

DLA Piper argues that the APPC’s stance would effectively bar non-members from carrying out public affairs work, which is unlawful under the Competition Act 1998.

Hudson said: “The OFT should be aware that making Government contracts conditional on APPC membership is anticompetitive, as are the attempts by the APPC to make this so. There’s some irony in Government agencies attempting to impose ‘transparency’ through the use of procurement processes that have had no public scrutiny whatsoever.”

DLA Piper’s Europe, Middle East and Africa competition, trade and transport head Mike Pullen said: “Our firm, backed by the Law Society, believes public affairs consultants should be regulated, but it should be done through statute, not voluntary organisations such as the APPC.”

APPC chair Gill Morris said that, together with other lobby organisations, the association developed a set of guiding principles it believes should inform all those who interact with Government.

Morris said: “The APPC Code of Conduct provides one such model. We remain open-minded about how other organisations demonstrate their full compliance with the guiding principles.”