How AIPP’s teeth help the market (and UNICEF)

26/02/2010

Handling complaints about Members is one of the hardest tasks any trade body faces. As AIPP nears four years since inception, it’s an area of which the AIPP Board is particularly proud. It’s also an area that goes largely unnoticed by the outside world.
 

AIPP Board Member Guy Tolhurst was himself unaware of the actions taken by AIPP when he first joined the Board. ‘I raised this at one of my first meetings. I said that non-Member companies were waiting on the outside until we showed our teeth. I was quickly informed that the Association had already taken action against companies including expulsions from membership and fines.’
So, why has the Association not shouted loud and clear about their disciplinary actions?
‘It’s a difficult balance,’ explained Lisa Charlesworth, AIPP’s Operations Manager whose responsibilities include all disciplinary matters. ‘On the one hand, there’s a benefit in publicising the actions we take against Members to show that we will enforce our Code – without that strength, our work would be meaningless.
‘On the other hand, there is always a danger of the press reaction to such stories. In the wrong hands, a positive story about our willingness to take strong action against companies failing to follow our Code can be turned into a negative story about a company that let a client down. The last thing this market needs at the moment is bad press generated by its own industry body.’
Tolhurst has remained a persistent supporter of publicising this part of AIPP’s remit.
‘Eight companies have been expelled from membership,’ he said, ‘yet most people don’t know that. The Association can, has and will take strong action if companies are found to have made serious breaches of the Code. I say “Let’s tell the world we’re doing what we said we’d do.”’
It seems the Association will take this lead more and more.
‘We expect to introduce a new section on our website soon, dedicated purely to our disciplinary remit,’ Charlesworth added. ‘The eight companies expelled to date are listed within our news section so they’re not hidden. However, we feel that we now need to make it clearer: our Members are vetted; they sign up to our Code; if serious breaches are proven, we will take action and our record to date proves that.’
The pay-off for Members, of course, is that 88% of consumers now feel more reassured by AIPP membership (based on an independent survey carried out at A Place in the Sun Live in October 2009). Part of that reassurance will come from the fact that the Association will take action against Members and Members will toe the line for fear of losing the benefits.
The AIPP is also able to impose fines on Members for more minor misdemeanours. No fines are kept by AIPP – this money is paid to UNICEF, the AIPP’s nominated charity.

‘We think it wrong for the Association to benefit financially from imposing fines and this seems a good way to use the money,’ confirmed Charlesworth, who will soon be sending a cheque for over £2,500 to the charity.

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