Morning business news - March 21Friday 21 March 2014 10.39
The majority of consumers (80%) assume a person can only call themselves an accountant if they have a formal qualification, according to a new survey commissioned by Chartered Accountants Ireland. But under current rules anyone can give themselves the title of accountant even if they do not have the relevant qualifications - while those working in the field are not subject to any mandatory regulation. Ireland's accountancy body is calling on the Government to change this and says the matter is important to both consumers and legitimate operators in the field.
Aidan Lambe, of Chartered Accountants Ireland, says the body sees the issue as one of consumer protection and to this end it has been lobbying the Government for over ten years on the matter. Mr Lambe says that anyone in the state can currently set themselves up as an accountant, and put a brass plate on their door. He says this is wrong - particularly in the current financial state of the economy, where many people are seeking financial advice for the first time. Mr Lambe says that people need to have some confidence that the accountant they are using is appropriately regulated and supervised, that they hold personal indemnity insurance, that there are safeguards around clients' money, that there is an ongoing competency and that they subject themselves to external monitoring. That is the case when you are a member of an accountancy body, such as Chartered Accountants Ireland.
The Department of Enterprise has said introducing this kind of regulation would increase the cost of compliance, it would increase the barriers to entry and it could also hit legitimate accountants who happen to fall foul of any new rules. Mr Lambe says that the state has seen fit to intervene in other sectors in terms of consumer protection, including electricians, gas installers and the medical and legal professions. "What we are saying is that financial health should be subject to similar safeguards," he states. He says he hopes that this report goes some way to addressing Government concerns, adding that the accountancy body has tabled a small amendment to forthcoming companies legislation, which would give effect to an "appropriate regime" for everybody.
MORNING BRIEFS - Ireland's Six Nations match against Wales last month has boosted passenger numbers for Aer Lingus Regional. The airline, operated by Aer Arann, were 13% higher in February at 82,000. Demand on Dublin-Cardiff route was up by 33% during the month.
*** Ireland may get a new mobile phone network operator under plans put forward by existing player Three Ireland. Three's owner Hutchison Whampoa is currently trying to gain approval from the European Commission for its planned €780m takeover of O2 Ireland, which would create the second biggest network in the country. The region's competition body is looking to see whether the merged player would reduce competition in the market. Three hopes to allay those fears by offering to hand some of its network - and possibly some of its customers - to a new provider.
*** Bankrupt bitcoin exchange Mt Gox has said it has found $116m worth of the digital currency that it previously reported stolen. The Japanese firm, which shutdown after being targeted by hackers, said it found the 200,000 bitcoins in an old "digital wallet", which had been used three years ago. Mt Gox had blamed hackers for the loss of 850,000 bitcoins - but it now appears that just 650,000 were stolen. That still represents around 5% of the total number of bitcoin currently in existence. The hacking of Mt Gox has somewhat damaged the image of bitcoin - an online-only currency that had soared in value late last year. One bitcoin is now worth around $580 - down from its peak of over $1,000 late last year - but still around ten times more than its value at this time last year.