By Daniel Hunter

Businesses, especially small enterprises, would be at risk if restrictions on the use of terms such as ‘chartered’ were lifted, says ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is reviewing its list of ‘sensitive’ words as part of the Red Tape Challenge. ACCA points out that many of those words, such as ‘chartered’, are established as giving a strong measure of comfort to the business community as the words are synonymous with quality and the reliability of services offered.

“Allowing unrestricted use would render terms such as ‘chartered’ meaningless and would risk giving a false and wholly misleading impression to businesses of the quality of professional services offered by entities, as well as those who act under their authority," John Davies, ACCA head of technical, said.

"Smaller businesses, many of whom will be turning to professional service providers for the first time, could be caught out. Terms such as ‘chartered’ act as a beacon to businesses seeking assurance and quality.

“The right to use the term ‘chartered’ is currently founded on a binding commitment, on the part of the chartered bodies concerned, to applying and enforcing the highest standards in a particular field of expertise, to working in the public interest and to be accountable to a higher authority for their delivery of their obligations.

“In the accountancy profession, the chartered term carries particular importance because there is no statutory protection for the title of ‘accountant’. Anyone can call themselves an accountant and the Government has resisted pressure to introduce such protection on the ground that the consumer interest is protected by the existence of a small number of bodies, such as ACCA, which are incorporated by Royal Charter.

“If chartered became a free for all term, the ‘chartered’ status would be impaired in the eyes of the public, even though the standards that individual members of chartered bodies commit to would remain high.”

BIS is conducting an open invitation for views on the issue of sensitive words and other terms which are currently restricted. ACCA says that while the list should be reduced, with some words no longer requiring special status, recent scams emanating from fraudulent “registries” justify the retention of some protections. Maintaining the word ‘register’ as protected can guard against these scams becoming more widespread.

The rise of the internet and decline in some localised industries have already stripped geographical terms of much of their value, so terms such as ‘international’ at one extreme and ‘Sheffield’ (protected from the city’s steel industry heyday) have lost their potency and relevance.

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