PRCA to allow anonymous whistleblowing in new code of conduct

The PRCA has updated its code of conduct to speed up the system for dealing with complaints and allow anonymous whistleblowing.

The 'Sweatygate' scandal was a serious complaint that led to Fuel PR being expelled from the PRCA
The 'Sweatygate' scandal was a serious complaint that led to Fuel PR being expelled from the PRCA
The updated code, which applies to all PRCA members, will simplify the complaints procedure and reduce the time for resolving them by more than half, the trade body said.

Additionally, the PRCA itself will be able to bring complaints against its own members when the director general believes there is sufficient cause where, previously, complaints had to originate with members of the public.

The trade body said this change would facilitate whistleblowing from those who were able to show evidence of breaches but were unwilling to be named.

The rationale for the changes to the complaints system was that the previous timescale for dealing with serious complaints has not kept pace with how fast stories, such as last year’s ‘Sweaty-gate’ scandal, had developed or how quickly the PR industry expects them to be resolved.

In August last year, Fuel PR supplied a case study to the Press Association of an individual whose excessive sweating had been cured by a product named Odaban, which appeared in several national papers. The individual turned out to be one of its own employees appearing under a false name - and Odaban was one of the agency's clients.

Fuel PR susequently had its PRCA membership rescinded and its managing director, Gillian Waddell, lost her PRCA fellowship. It was the first time in a decade that the PRCA had expelled a member. 
Francis Ingham, PRCA director general, said: "The changes we are announcing today are fundamental. They reinforce the PRCA self-regulatory process as the toughest in the industry. By halving the time taken to investigate complaints and reach conclusions, and by introducing a mechanism for anonymous whistle-blowing, we have set a new gold standard."

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