Protecting the title 'chartered accountant'
Each week ICAEW receives complaints — from ICAEW members and from members of the public — about individuals and organisations who describe themselves as ‘chartered accountant(s)’; use the letters ACA or FCA after their name; or use ICAEW’s logo when they're not entitled to.
Who are they?
People who use the description ‘chartered accountant’, the letters ACA or FCA or ICAEW’s logo when they are not entitled to, are usually:
- former ICAEW members who continue to use the description when they are no longer a member;
- individuals who have never been an ICAEW member; or
- members of overseas accountancy bodies.
What we do to stop them
When we receive these complaints, we take steps to make sure the individual or organisation stops.
ICAEW takes these cases very seriously because members of the public can be misled into thinking that the individual is a qualified chartered accountant or, in the case of a former ICAEW member, that they are still entitled to describe themselves as a chartered accountant.
We write to the individual or the organisation and ask them to agree not to misrepresent themselves and to enter into an agreement known as an undertaking. The undertaking becomes a legally binding document which we keep in our undertaking register.
Breaking the terms of an undertaking or injunction
Once an individual or an organisation enters into an undertaking, ICAEW publishes details. If, at a later date, the individual or organisation appears to be using the description ‘chartered accountant’, the letters ACA or FCA or ICAEW’s logo again, we reopen the case and look into the matter. We may ask agents to visit the individual’s or organisation’s office(s) and gather up-to-date evidence (for example, headed stationery, business cards, photos of name plates and signs on windows) to show that the individual or organisation is still using the description or logo. If this shows the original agreement has been breached, we ask our solicitors to start injunction proceedings.
If the individual or organisation does not agree to stop, we ask our solicitors to take up the case and, if necessary, to take out an injunction through the High Court to stop them from using the description or logo when they are not entitled to. The court usually orders the defendant to pay the costs of the legal proceedings. If individuals do not follow the terms of the injunction, they can be sent to prison.
If individuals or organisations wrongfully use the description ‘Registered Auditor’, ICAEW refers these cases to Companies House or the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.
Members of certain overseas accountancy bodies
Members of certain overseas accountancy bodies may describe themselves as chartered accountants and use the letters ACA or FCA as long as they include the name of the country in which they gained their qualification.