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Taking clients and breaching DPA

Hi

I have today received a letter from the solicitor of my old firm of accountants. They are demanding that I destroy the data that I collected of client information, before I left the firm.

This has come about as I have contacted these clients and a few of them have informed my old firm that I have done this.

Does anybody know where I stand, as this style of practice has been going on for years, where accountants leave firms and take clients with them.

I have contacted the AAT legal team and they are calling me back later.

Thanks

Don
KernowAccountant

Comments

  • You sound like somebody that has been stung in the past...too much emotion in that post.

    These were clients that I dealt with week in, week out. I had the relationship with them so I see them as my clients.

    Accountants leave firms all the time and take clients with them to their new
    Place of work.

    Many new MIPs start out the same way.
  • So you are telling me that no accountant starts their own practice without some clients from a previous employer?

    I don't think I have met one yet. Past colleagues of other practices have done the same thing.

    If a client was happy with the firm, they would not feel the need to leave. All I have done is ask they question.
  • MarieNoelleMarieNoelle Trusted Regular Hampshire/Surrey borderModerator, MAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 1,431
    I strongly agree with @mrme89. Poaching clients from a previous employer is I hope not as common a practice as you make out to be.
    Ethics aside I would comply with the solicitors letter. Of course if an ex client is unhappy with your old firm they have a right to change accountants (and they may come to you) but the use of clients data obtained whilst you were an employee could be viewed as theft of company information. Did you sign any form of restrictive covenant or a non solicitation agreement?
    KernowAccountant
  • There is absolutely nothing in my contract to say I can't approach clients.
  • burgburg Experienced Mentor GloucesterModerator, FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 1,441
    Two sides of the fence for me but one position.

    I was an employee of a practice. I left I decided I did not want to poach clients. Directly soliciting them will leave you in hot water.

    Now as the owner of a practice with employees we have restrictive covenants in our employment contracts. We will act upon them if former employees directly solicit clients. We have worked hard to gain those clients and given help and trust to an employee.

    Overall it is highly unethical. Those who I have met who have poached clients have gone about it in a different manner. Placing adverts that you know your former accountants clients might see and recognise you from is very different from directly soliciting them.

    Your problem is that you have taken data that was not yours to take. That is theft either way. The restrictive covenants we have based on legal advice we took just cannot restrict clients from working locally forever. They can however stop clients from directly approaching clients.

    I would get some legal advice pretty sharpish and tell them all you have done so they can advise you in the best manner.

    My only thought now would be how the AAT may view this. If they also deem it unethical then could you be in breach of the code of conduct and face disciplinary action?

    Stick to gaining clients through advertising. If it is genuine advertising and you gain clients form your previous firm I'm sure they would not be half as bothered.
    Regards,

    Burg
    MarieNoelleKernowAccountantJawz
  • JanejJanej Feels At Home North YorkshireRegistered Posts: 50
    I agree with burg, you need to get some legal advice ASAP.
    I have not and would never poach clients. It has cost me time and money to acquire my clients and build working relationships with them and I would take a very dim view of an employee poaching clients from me. Is this covered by the professional ethics test we have to do to become an MIP?
    Jane
  • JawzJawz New Member West MidlandsRegistered Posts: 53
    I agree completely with the motion that you were out of order for poaching your ex employer's clients. It is so wrong in many ways to do such things.

    Just imagine if someone does the same to you? I am sure you wouldn't like it, so why do it to others?
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