A professional fee should provide advisers with a reasonable return for their services, skills and knowledge. If it does so, it is likely to be fair and reasonable to a client. A premium added on to a fee solely because of a client’s ability to pay is not likely to be fair or reasonable to a client.
Issues that have been identified in this area of professional practice include advisers:
There a number of factors to take into account while setting fees. Some factors are competing which can act to drive fees higher or lower.
Influences on lower fees might include:
Influences on higher fees might include:
As part of the yearly renewal of their licence, all advisers provide the Authority with information about the fees that they charge, and the Authority publishes the average and median fees charged by licensed immigration advisers on its website.
The following clauses of the code of conduct either must, or should be, taken into account when setting fees:
|An adviser must ensure that:|
|In relation to fees, an adviser should also:|
These obligations flow from the fact that advisers are professionals who have the privilege of being licensed to provide services to the public, which other service providers who are not licensed or exempt are excluded from.
The duty that follows from that privilege is professionalism, and as a professional service provider an adviser must act fairly in their dealings with clients, and are not entitled to put their personal interests first. An adviser therefore has no right to set commercial terms that are not fair to their client, and the terms of an agreement with a client will never override this premise. Advisers can expect to be held to account if they do so.
Many new advisers wonder whether professional fees should be charged at an hourly rate, or on a fixed fee basis. There is no right or wrong answer to that question. A fixed fee arrangement might be more suitable where the scope of the work can be well defined, whereas an hourly rate charge might be more appropriate for special, preliminary work or ancillary work that is hard to quantify until the full extent of the work is known.
Some hints for calculating fees for defined services, and ensuring that they are fair and reasonable, are outlined below:
|Prepare a budget (in hours) for each new assignment||Before giving potential clients a quotation for services:
|Calculate an hourly charge rate||Take into account recovery of:
|Calculate the proposed client fee||Multiply the number of budgeted hours by the hourly charge rate|
|Check||Consider the resulting fee, and ask: