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December 01, 2021

Dear Dilemma: The prohibition against supplanting

Dear Dilemma: The prohibition against supplanting
Dear Dilemma,

Members in the past have asked you about the Professional Code of Practice (“Code”) prohibition against “supplanting” another member (see section 3.11 of the Code). I understand that it basically means that one member cannot try to steal a client from another member.

You clarified that if a client leaves one planner and approaches another with no such inducement, then that second planner is not guilty of “supplanting.” This is true even if the first planner advises the second planner that the client still has unpaid bills with the first planner.

You have noted that often the second planner will not take on this client out of professional courtesy to the first planner, and/or in an abundance of caution of the client also failing to pay the second planner’s bills. However, the Code does not require such a refusal, though other professions do include a requirement NOT to accept such a client in their Codes of Ethics.

With all this said, my question is, why doesn’t OPPI (and CIP) include this extra prohibition in their Code?

Signed, Cautious


Dear Cautious,

If you feel strongly about this, you should certainly approach OPPI through the relevant committee to discuss making a change However, although some other professions do have such an element in their Codes of Ethics, I can see some problems with doing this:
  • If you read the Preamble and the Statement of Values at the beginning of the Professional Code of Practice, you will see that the document is mainly aimed at protecting the public interest and the interests of clients and employers. Even section 3 of the Code, which talks about a member’s responsibility to “the profession and other members” seems mostly aimed at ensuring that members are competent and otherwise do not damage the reputation of the profession in the eyes of the public. The “supplanting” section is unusual, and arguably unnecessary, since blatant client poaching would already be prohibited by the language of section 3.5, as “dishonourable conduct.” However, it might be difficult to argue that “taking on a client who has not paid all past planners” is dishonourable or harms the public interest and needs to be prohibited in the Code.
  • What if the first planner says that the client did not pay for a traffic engineering report, and the client says that they never authorized a traffic engineering report? Should the second planner really be ruled by the first planner’s claim? What if the first planner’s claim is actually bogus, and merely an attempt to keep the client from obtaining another planner? Should the second planner review all the correspondence between the first planner and the client, to try to decide whether the unpaid invoice is legitimate? Or must the second planner wait until the courts pronounce on this matter after lengthy litigation? This could all get very messy and is why I think maybe it would be better to let the second planner proceed as they see fit (either taking the client on or not), while the first planner and the client hash out their disagreement separately.

As I say, these are only some observations about why the Code does not require such a refusal. If, after further discussion with OPPI and other Provincial and Territorial Institutes and Associations, there is a desire to amend the Code in this way, they may see fit to update the Professional Code of Practice.

Signed, Dilemma

The intent of this blog post is to provide general advice to professional planners in Ontario, and this should not be taken as the Institute’s definitive position on this matter. Only OPPI’s Complaints and Discipline Committees are authorized by statute and by-law to make final determinations regarding potential breaches of the Code. Complaints are investigated on a case-by-case basis and judgments are arrived at based on the facts of that specific case.

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