Mind your website content, CA Institute tells members

KR Srivats New Delhi | Updated on October 18, 2020

Content should be in line with the ‘Code of Ethics’

The CA Institute wants not only its individual members to adhere to its ‘Code of Ethics’, but even the websites maintained by them to fall within the four corners of its ethics framework.

It has dashed out an advisory to its members to maintain websites in line with the norms enshrined in the website guidelines and its Code of Ethics, sources said. Members have been advised to remove all such contents and features which are not in consonance with the said guidelines.

As an illustrative exercise, the Institute has now come up with a list of nearly 30 commonly found errors as per the Code of Ethics. For instance, the website should not be a tool for solicitation or advertisement, which is expressly prohibited under the Chartered Accountants Act 1949.

This is the first time ever the CA Institute has listed out the information that cannot be published on a website of its members/CA firms, sources said.

CA Institute had observed that different members are following different practices when it came to websites. This has prompted it to refresh the website guidelines and the latest advisory was based on the recommendations of a special purpose group, sources said.

It may be recalled that the ICAI council had for the first time issued Website Guidelines in 2001. This has been revised from time to time and most recently in February. Since 2001, more than 2 lakh members have entered the CA profession.

Some don’ts

The CA Institute has now made it clear that clients names and clients logo should not be published on the website. Also, mentioning of professional fees or fact of providing services free of charge is prohibited. CA firms can’t use expressions such as “leading form”/“best firm”/“top firm”.

There cannot be mention of activities forming other business or occupation allowed to members in practice e.g. reference of books authored, teaching activities by members etc. CA firms cannot upload videos — other than educational ones-on websites. This would mean no videos on firm profile or canvassing for elections etc. Also, CA firms can’t claim they render best quality services in the market and have presence or associations in the ‘big cities’. One can’t even use the logo of a government department or a scheme like ‘Startup India’. All forms of advertisements of commodity, service or entity will remain prohibited. A CA firm should not even mention features like “Why Choose Us” on its website.

Expert take

Ashok Haldia, Former Secretary, ICAI, said the advisory is pursuant to and consistent with the Chartered Accountants Act which bars solicitation and advertisement by CA firms. It takes in to account the imperative need for a firm to maintain a website with out sounding as solicitation and advertisement which at times run against the fundamental characteristics of a true professional, he said.

“Having said that non-CA firms competing with CA firms do not have similar requirements and are not monitored for undesirable practices. It becomes necessary that the government finds legal and regulatory measures for prohibiting undesirable advertising or solicitation,for applicability to all types of professionals founded on cornerstone of public trust and confidence,” Haldia said.

Published on October 18, 2020

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