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Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

Composition and Scope

This code consists of two parts, the Code of Ethics and the Code of Professional Conduct. The Code of Ethics consists of statements expressing in general terms the ethical and professional ideals expected of all Members.

They are referred to and expanded on in the detailed guidance contained within the Code of Professional Conduct. A fundamental component of the Code of Professional Conduct is that the prospective client is dealt with face-to-face at some point during the engagement process.

The Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct sets out the standards of ethical and professional conduct expected to be followed in particular situations.

This combined Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct does not define standards of professional conduct of a Full or Affiliate Member for the purposes of civil liability, or for statutory or other legal requirements. Compliance with the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct does not guarantee compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements and the association accepts no liability for any action taken by any Member either in complying with or not complying with this Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

Not all of these guidelines may be applicable to the Memberís activities or to those of their employees. The Member is therefore required to abide by those guidelines which are relevant to that Memberís activities.

The Member is obliged to determine what responsibilities it has in each professional relationship, including, for example, duties that arise in particular circumstances from a position of trust or confidence that the Member may have. Members are obliged to meet those responsibilities.

Ethical conduct is the hallmark of any profession. The Member owes duties to its clients, to the public, to other professionals and to other Members. These duties form the basis of the Code of Ethics, which specifies the minimum standards of ethical conduct expected of the Member.

For the purposes of the Code the term Member includes full and Affiliate Members, and where applicable, the Memberís employees, Memberís representatives and consultants (hereinafter referred to as Staff). The association will expect therefore that all Members make them aware of this Code and require that they comply with it.

Code of Ethics

General

Members must hold, where applicable, a valid Consumer Credit Licence, FCA authorisation and Data Protection Notification. The Member should not engage in any conduct or activity, the consequences of which would bring the profession, the debt solutions industry or the association into disrepute.

Members must comply with all legal and regulatory requirements from time to time in force Ė in particular, but not limited to:

  • Consumer Credit Acts 1974 & 2006
  • Data Protection Act 1998
  • Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999
  • Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 Ė donít apply to financial services
  • Consumer Protection Act 1987
  • Financial Services (Distance Marketing) Regulations 2004
  • Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977
  • Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982
  • Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988

Integrity

All advice by the Member must be given honestly with full disclosure of relevant information and must always have regard to factors which might reflect adversely upon the Memberís integrity. The Member should conduct its affairs in accordance with not just the letter, but also the spirit, of the law.

Where the Member is not licensed to provide debt advice then this should be disclosed at the earliest opportunity and any party introduced to a licensed debt solution provider should have provided explicit consent for their personal data to be transferred to the preferred provider, whose legal name should have been disclosed at the same time.

Objectivity

The Member should be and be seen to be providing objective and independent services, where the Memberís interests are clearly subordinate to the best interests of the Memberís client. Any potential conflict of interest must always be disclosed at the earliest opportunity.

Competence

The Member should continuously try to maintain and improve the professional competence of its relevant Staff and should not undertake work in areas in which it is not competent unless it obtains advice and assistance from a competent practitioner in those areas.

Confidentiality

Information acquired in the course of professional work should not be disclosed except where

  • authorised by the client, or
  • required by law

The Member should never use, nor appear to use, such information for the advantage of itself or for that of a third party.

Courtesy

The Member should conduct its business with courtesy and consideration to all with whom it comes into contact in the course of professional work. It should seek to establish and maintain helpful relationships with Members of other professions or disciplines.

Code of Professional Conduct: Detailed Guidelines

The Code of Professional Conduct provides detailed guidance on how the Code of Ethics is translated into standards of professional conduct. These standards will be used by the association to assess the conduct of Member firms and their staff.

  1. Integrity

  2. The Member must be honest and open in all dealings with their clients and must put their clientsí interest before their own. Integrity requires the Member to observe not only the letter, but also the spirit, of this Code.

    Guidelines that relate to the principle of Integrity

    1. The Member shall disclose in writing to the client any other relationships which might compromise the Memberís objectivity or independence.
    2. The Member shall enter into an engagement only after securing sufficient information to satisfy him - or herself that: -
      1. the relationship is warranted by the clientís needs and objectives; and
      2. the Member has the ability either to provide competently the required services or to involve other professionals who can so provide such services.
    3. In rendering professional services, the Member shall disclose to the client information that is material and relevant to the professional relationship, including but not limited to any conflict of interest, changes in the Memberís contact details, relevant licences, qualifications or accreditation and remuneration structure.
    4. These guidelines are intended for the Member firm. The Member firm should ensure that all of its Staff adhere to these guidelines within the firmís operating procedures.
    5. In addition to the initial written disclosure by the Member regarding the basis of its remuneration, such disclosure shall also be made whenever there is the subsequent change.
    6. On entering into an engagement to provide services to the client, the Member shall enter into the client agreement by means of the terms of business letter or similar agreed and signed by the client.
    7. Should an actual conflict of interest develop after the professional relationship has been commenced, but before the services contemplated by that relationship have been completed, the Member shall promptly disclose the conflict of interest to the client or other necessary persons.
    8. The Member shall not solicit clients through false or misleading communications or advertisements (including false or misleading communication about the size, scope or areas of competence of the Member).
    9. In the course of professional activities, the Member shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, or knowingly make a false or misleading statement to the client, employer, employee, professional colleague, governmental or other regulatory body or official, or any other person or entity.
    10. The Member shall not engage in any conduct which reflects adversely on its integrity as the Member of the association.

  3. Objectivity

  4. Objectivity requires intellectual honesty and impartiality. It is an essential quality for any professional firm. Regardless of the particular service rendered, or the capacity in which the Member functions, the Member should protect the integrity of its work, maintain objectivity, and avoid subordination of its judgement, such that it would be in violation of this Code.

    Guidelines that relate to the principle of Objectivity

    1. The Member shall exercise reasonable and prudent professional judgement in providing professional services.
    2. The Member shall always act and advise in the best interest of the client. APDSI Code of Ethics and Professional

  5. Competence

  6. The Member is competent only when one or more of its Staff has attained and maintained an adequate level of knowledge and skill, and applies that knowledge effectively in providing services to clients. Competence also includes the wisdom to recognise the limitations of that knowledge and when consultation or client referral is appropriate. A Member shall make a continuing commitment to learning and professional improvement for its Staff.

    Guidelines that relate to the principle of Competence

    1. The Member shall ensure its Staff are informed of developments in the field of debt solutions and any financial services regulations and compliance that may impact on them and their activities and that they participate in continuing education.
    2. The Member shall offer advice only in those areas in which it has competence. In areas where the Member is not professionally competent, it shall seek the counsel of competent firms or individuals or refer clients to such parties.
    3. The Member shall only make or implement recommendations, which are suitable for the client in the attainment of that clientís objectives.

  7. Confidentiality

  8. The client by seeking the services of the Member may be interested in creating a relationship of trust and confidence with the Member. This type of relationship can only be built upon the understanding that information supplied to the Member or obtained by it will be confidential, except where that information is already in the public domain, is disclosed by another party or must be disclosed under a regulatory or legal obligation. In order to provide the contemplated services effectively and to protect the clientís privacy, the Member shall safeguard the confidentiality of such information.

    Guidelines that relate to the principle of Confidentiality

    1. The Member shall not reveal or use for its own benefit without the clientís consent, any information relating to the client relationship or the affairs of the client, except and to the extent disclosure or use is reasonably necessary: -
      1. as authorised in order to carry out the client engagement; or
      2. to comply with legal requirements, or legal process; or
      3. to defend the Member against charges of wrongdoing; or
      4. in connection with a civil dispute between the Member and the client.

    For the purposes of this guideline, the use of client information as set out above, is improper whether or not it actually causes harm to the client.

  9. Courtesy

  10. Courtesy is treating others in the same fashion that one would wish to be treated and is an essential quality of any professional.

    Guidelines that relate to the principle of Courtesy

    1. The Member shall show respect for other professionals and related occupational groups, by engaging in fair and honourable competitive practices.
    2. The Member shall respond to client communications promptly.
    3. The Memberís employees, partners or co-owners shall inform the Member of any personal remuneration or other benefit arrangements arising in connection with the provision of services to clients, which are in addition to remuneration from the employer or profits from the business arising from such services.

  11. General Guidelines on Diligence

    1. The Member shall comply with all applicable post-accreditation requirements established by APDSI including, but not limited to, payment of the annual subscription and provision of any additional information, as applicable.
    2. In all professional activities, the Member shall perform services in accordance with:-
      1. applicable laws, rules and regulations of governmental bodies and other applicable authorities
      2. the laws governing the territory in which the client resides
      3. applicable rules and other established policies of the association
    3. The Member shall not practice any other profession or offer to provide such services unless the Member is qualified to practice in those fields and is authorised as required by law.
    4. The Member shall properly supervise its staff with regard to their delivery of services, and shall not accept or condone conduct in violation of this Code.


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