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Policy Statement

Policy on Misuse of Title, Work and Approach

A. ARB’s Objectives

 ARB has two objectives which sit beneath its statutory responsibilities under the Act.

 Protect the users and potential users of architects’ services:

We will protect the users and potential users of architects’ services by regulating architects so that the public can be confident that architects are appropriately qualified. We will raise the public’s awareness of the Register.

 Support architects through regulation:

We will maintain and publicly demonstrate the status of architects as competent, qualified professionals, and we will regulate use of the title “architect”.  We will raise awareness of the Architects Code of Conduct and Practice and the need for those on the Register to maintain their competence.

B. Considering those Objectives for Title Regulation

The Architects Act 1997 creates an offence of using the title “architect” in business or practice whilst not on the Register, and places a statutory responsibility on ARB in relation to regulating the use of that title.

In tandem with this statutory responsibility and in line with the objectives above, ARB works to prevent misuse of title (rather than solely prosecute) and to raise awareness of the restrictions on using the title “architect”.  ARB aims to improve the ability of users and potential users of architects’ services to find an architect and to prevent the public being misled about an individual’s status. If the title “architect” is used correctly, then the public can be assured that when they are using the services of someone described as an architect, they are using a genuine registered architect.

Educating the public and the media about the restrictions on the title “architect” also supports architects, both in maintaining their professional status and in demonstrating to the public the obligations which apply to architects.  This in turn helps to provide an assurance to clients and potential clients of an architect’s status.

C. How to Achieve These Objectives

 The Act creates an offence of using the title “architect” in business or practice when not registered with ARB.  This offence can arise in respect of an individual or a business, such as a limited liability partnership or company. The Act provides that for an entity to use the title “architect, the business must be under the control and management of an architect, and the architectural business must be carried out by or under the supervision of an architect.  Enquiries about use of the title can be raised in relation to all types of trading styles (sole practitioners, limited companies etc.).

Different approaches are needed to respond to breaches of the Act or where the description may be misleading or cause reputational damage, but where no offence has occurred.

1. Regulating the use of the title “Architect” in connection with business or practice.

These cases can fall into two categories:

a. Where a breach occurs when the individual or practice labelled as an architect is responsible for the use of the term.

In this situation, ARB’s objective is to investigate and stop any ongoing misuse of title as quickly as possible.  Breaches occur in, for example, business names, letterheads, newspaper and web advertising, fascia signs, web addresses, terms of engagement and in verbal exchanges.

Key elements in this process include:

i. Verifying facts and undertaking additional searches/investigation.

ii. Seeking to gain satisfactory assurance that the breach will not reoccur.

iii. Considering prosecution in line with the prosecution policy if the case is not resolved.

iv. Keeping the complainant informed, while managing their expectations and advising that correspondence may not be disclosable.

v. Seeking co-operation of web listing etc. to correct a breach.

vi. Follow-up where possible to check there is no recurrence.

b. Where an individual or practice is identified as an architect in the context of business or practice when not on the Register without the knowledge or authority of the individual/practice.

This commonly occurs through a web directory, where the individual or practice may not have authorised the entry.  In addition to web directories, Google is another example where an individual or practice may not be aware that they are listed under the category “architect”.

These examples are forms of advertising in connection with a business or practice where the public may be misled by the use of the term “architect”.  There may also be instances where the title is used in commentary, for example, in an article / blog.  This may be in the context of business but not an advertisement for the business.

Key elements in this process are:

i. Verifying facts and undertaking additional searches/investigation.

ii. Seeking co-operation of web listings etc., if the use appears as an advertisement.

iii. Keeping the complainant informed, while managing their expectations and advising that correspondence may not be disclosable.

iv. Where the use is not part of an advertisement for services and is in a newspaper or journal, or on TV, radio, etc., keep on file as evidence and consider periodic strategic approach to raise awareness of the restrictions applying to use of the title.

v. Exceptionally, consider a targeted approach to the newspaper, journal, etc., if there is a strong likelihood of the public being misled or significant reputational damage to architects.

2. Use of the restricted title “architect” but not in connection with the built environment

The term architect is sometimes used in a way that is unconnected with the built environment, for example “software architect” is used within the IT industry. No action will generally be taken as it is highly unlikely that anyone would be misled by the use of such a term.

Where the title is used in connection with the built environment, the above process is followed.  However, it is less likely that direct approaches will need to be made to any parties and complainants will need to be advised accordingly.

3. Common Enquiries

Student Architects

In situations where “Student” architect is used, it is often unlikely to be a breach of the Act.  However, if “Student Architect” is used in a business or practice context, then this could be a breach.

Key elements in this process will include:

i. Considering carefully those instances where the title “architect” is included on a CV as it could be regarded as using the term in business or practice, for example, to secure work. It could also be regarded as misleading.

ii. Carefully considering the context of the case. The employer could be requested to consider changing the job title, as it may inadvertently be used in business or practice, possibly giving rise to a breach of the Act.

iii. Advising the complainant on whether it may be a breach of the Act and indicating what steps are being taken, but ensuring that their expectations are managed.

iv. Seeking to gain satisfactory assurances that a breach (if appropriate) will not recur, or alerting the individual to potential problems with future or continued use of the term.

4. Designatory Letters and RIBA Membership

Some cases arise in connection with the use of designated letters such as “RIBA” by an individual who is not on the Register.  A breach of the Act only occurs where such a designation is used in connection with business or practice.

Cases may concern affiliate members or those who have recently retired.  ARB’s approach in these instances will depend on the circumstances, and procedures will follow the steps identified in earlier sections of this policy according to whether a breach of the Act has occurred.  However, a check will also be made to see whether the individual is an RIBA member.  If the individual is not an RIBA member and therefore not entitled to the designation, this will be raised with the individual and the RIBA alerted, without passing on any non-disclosable information.  The RIBA website and documentation contain more information about the restrictions on using the affix “RIBA”, which can be referred to.

5. Directory Entries

Many of the comments described under the individual paragraphs above apply, whether or not the case appears within a web- or paper-based directory and whether or not the matter has been raised by a third party.  Any letters that ARB sends to the directories must be very clear as to whether it is alleging a potential breach of the Act or whether it is seeking co-operation in raising awareness of using the title “architect”.  In each instance, the aim is to safeguard consumers by preventing further breaches occurring.

6. Prosecution Policy

In reaching a decision as to whether to prosecute, two principles are applied:

    • Is it in the public interest to prosecute?
    • Is there a reasonable prospect of success?

The public interest test relates to the risk of reoffending or where the offence caused such consumer detriment that it requires action.  However, prosecution should not generally be used simply as a tool to “punish” offenders if there is no real risk of their reoffending or little evidence of client harm.  Prosecuting solely as a punishment would not generally be in the public interest.  The prospect of success will usually be determined by the quality of the evidence available.

All cases will be assessed against these two principles.  Advice may be needed from ARB’s solicitors on whether to prosecute, particularly with regard to the strength of the evidence. If the solicitors advise against a prosecution being taken forward, that advice would carry significant weight.

ARB has no standing to bring private prosecutions in Scotland as it does within the rest of the United Kingdom. Any prosecutions are brought by the Procurator Fiscal after their own consideration of the public interest and prospects of success test. Because of this, and the differing evidential requirements of Scottish law, specific legal advice will be taken in respect of any prosecutions of offences in Scotland.

The prosecution policy is in line with the Better Regulation Commission principles and in particular the following:


Regulators should only intervene when necessary. Remedies should be appropriate to the risk posed and costs identified and minimised.

    • Policy solutions must be proportionate to the perceived problem or risk and justify the compliance costs imposed – “don’t use a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.
    • All the options for achieving policy objectives must be considered – not just prescriptive regulation. Alternatives may be more effective and cheaper to apply.
    • Enforcement regimes should be proportionate to the risk posed.
    • Enforcers should consider an educational, rather than a punitive approach where possible.

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