Fixed Rates

Over the years, there was a constant inquiry on how to elevate the graphic design industry to a more secure strata. Whether it’s from a professional, individual, or even a educational standpoint, design is the absolute subconscious that resides in any trade.

Point in case: the UK government spent a significant amount annually on design, and the returns are in the billions – a caliber reflection of the participating practitioners. Back in 2009, £15 billion was spent and over 230,000 people have been employed to assist in improving public services through design; contributing a substantial economic wealth to the nation as mentioned by the Universities and Science Minister David Willetts at the Design for Growth summit.

These facts should be the grounds in securing a design career foundation for every practitioner, at least in propelling the minimum wage stigma that’s been encompassing the industry to a more stringent payroll classification in accordance with their current position. A welcome notion to most, it has long been disputed between companies and associations. Even with proven results, design has always been an equivocal subject in pricing – be it employment or service. The variable spectrum is immense. One might assume that it was a sanctioned arbitrary accord by the decision-makers. To a degree, one might be right – you can’t fix a price. Why?

It is because of the Competition Act.

What is the Competition Act (CA)?

According to Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC), the CA’s main role is to protect the competitive process for the benefit of businesses, consumers and the economy and to ensure a more conducive competition culture in line with the international best practice. This is an exercise to remove monopolization from the equation due to the fact that some businesses may not be as dominant in the industry. In the case of wages vs. services, it is imperative to maintain a competitive and open trade. By creating the right business culture, it is possible to raise awareness to the general public on the negative impact for denying the right to compete.

Not to be confused with Intellectual Properties (IP), the CA does not cross the line when it comes to patents, designs, nor trademarks, even though it might be perceived as a compartmentalized monopoly system. In fact, IP do have expiry dates that is in line with the CA’s goal, by reintroducing the possibility of a healthy trade competition when it comes to pass.

In a nutshell, price fixing is illegal – worldwide.

Any agreement to fix prices is deemed prosecutable. It is an offence and will be subjected to a consequential fine, which could be as high as 10% of the worldwide turnover.

Despite with the backings of official associations, the price fixing scenario will never be seen as a professional move – particularly from where they stand. Associations should be seen as the body that empowers the industry through other means necessary, such as undertaking a comprehensive study on current issues to assist in reducing the uncertainty that would normally exist in a competitive market.

Hypothetically, should there be economic inflation in the near future, would it be perceived as an ethical decision for an association to decree a markup across the board and casually allow it to be borne by each and every clientele in order to stabilize the industry?

No, it wouldn’t.

In general, they should monitor and acknowledge the industry’s competitive scale on every level and by doing so, allowing it to regulate itself by reducing the potential spike in prices while maintaining a healthy average. This should in no way discredit any association from their current responsibilities and stature.

Another theoretical scenario would be a fixed price salary offer for an entry level position between a multinational and a local agency. Wouldn’t there be a bias inclination towards the multinational agency in terms of exposure as well as clienteles? Even with minimum requirements, this will ultimately diminish the integrity of the handicapped. SMEs will lose their business contingencies against the corporate giants, resulting in a limited career opportunity for practitioners. This should not be allowed to materialize. As an ethical approach, practicing professionals should be aware of those who support the anti-competition agreement.

In the end, your worth is something that you justify with experience, not on a price tag.