Following the changes to the Search Code, and in particular the requirement for all subscribers to be CoPSO members, the CoPSO Executive has undertaken to revise its membership rules so that firms have a clear understanding of how their application will be handled, the criteria against which it will be assessed and the standards of commercial behaviour which will be expected from them once they are accepted into membership.
There are currently three tiers of membership, Executive, Associate and Affiliate which is ‘Code only’ membership. Executive and Associate membership are subject to an initial assessment by CoPSO whilst Affiliate membership is subject to successful registration as a subscriber to the Search Code.
There are two additional requirements for Executive membership – to have a minimum of £5million of PI insurance in place and to have been trading for at least two years.
Applications for Executive and Associate membership are not accepted from non-Code subscribers or those firms which are subject to ongoing regulatory, legal or PCCB challenge.
Compliance with the Search Code is the responsibility of the PCCB. However for Executive and Associate members compliance with the Search Code will be assessed in a broader context and compliance with the spirit as well as the letter of the Code, and all its provisions, will be expected.
Applications for Executive and Associate membership must be approved by the CoPSO Executive. If there is not a unanimous decision, then the application is passed to a Membership Committee comprising two members of the Board and the CEO. The Membership Committee may co-opt specialist support if required. The Membership Committee may undertake mystery shopping or any additional investigation it deems necessary in order to assess whether the applicant complies in full with the Search Code, CoPSO and industry Guidance Notes and the CoPSO rules of membership.
The Membership Committee will make its recommendation to the next scheduled Executive Meeting. The application will then by approved or rejected on the basis of majority vote. In exceptional circumstances, a decision may be canvassed electronically.
We will endeavour to process all applications with 60 working days and inform applicants of the Executive’s decision in writing.
The same procedure will apply if an Affiliate applies for Associate or Executive membership. If an Associate member applies for Executive membership they must satisfy the additional requirements for Executive membership as detailed above.
All membership subscriptions must be paid within 60 days of invoice date. Failure to do so may result in suspension or even termination of membership at the discretion of the Executive.
If during the course of the Membership Committee’s investigation breaches of the Search Code are identified, the matter will be passed to the PCCB for investigation. In the case of a severe breach, then the application will be deemed to fail immediately. In the case of more minor breaches – as identified by the PCCB’s new schedule of offences and penalty points - applicants will be given a period of 20 working days to satisfy the PCCB and CoPSO that the breach will be remedied and a final decision will be taken by the CoPSO Executive after this period elapses.
In exceptional circumstances it may be that an applicant is subject to suspension/expulsion compliance proceedings by the PCCB or may be subject to legal challenge whilst an application is pending. In these cases, the application will be put on hold for 4 weeks to give time for the matter to be resolved
An applicant may not re-apply for a period of 6 months to allow time for compliance failure to be addressed.
Members of CoPSO are expected to maintain the highest industry standards and to abide by all CoPSO/PCCB Guidance and membership requirements as well as relevant laws. These will be kept under periodic review and members kept informed of their obligations.
New Executive and Associate members will be subject to an initial 6 month probationary period.
During this initial 6 month period if the new member is found guilty of a serious breach of the Search Code or engages in commercial behaviour which brings the industry into disrepute then their membership will be terminated with immediate effect.
After this initial period, if any member has an unremedied breach of the Search Code or is found to engage in commercial behaviour which brings the industry into disrepute then their continued membership will be referred to the Membership Committee for reassessment. Such behaviour may included, but is not limited to, failure to pay subscriptions, bad debts, breach of data protection or copyright protection obligations. A company’s membership will be suspended for up to 4 weeks whilst an investigation takes place.
New Affiliate members are subject to the usual PCCB registration processes and approvals. Membership is only conferred once registration has been successful.
Any final decision on expulsion from CoPSO must be taken by unanimous vote of the Board.
These rules of membership will be kept under review and may be amended from time to time by the CoPSO Board.