The Business Centre Association has joined with virtual office providers and Government bodies to create a new forum to promote best practice and be a driving force in combating white collar crime.
The Virtual Office Forum has been established to issue best practice guidance to providers of serviced offices, flexible workspace, mail forwarding and telephone answering companies as well as registered office providers.
In addition to industry operators, Virtual Office Forum members include the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Sterling, which combats economic fraud, Westminster Trading Standards, Companies House and other official bodies who promote industry standards and sound business ethics.
The Virtual Office Forum will be issuing industry guidance combined with a training manual later this year that will include standard procedures on how to check documents and identities of potential clients.
As well as setting standards of excellence, the VOF aims to facilitate information sharing across the sector and to work closely with the authorities on fraud prevention.
Detective Chief Inspector Nick Downing, from the Metropolitan Police Service said: “We are extremely proud to be supporting this initiative and applaud the virtual office industry in taking such positive action. Operation Sterling is committed to preventing criminals using virtual offices as a way to enable their unlawful activity.”
Simon Cowie, chairman of Mail Boxes Etc. (UK) Limited, who chairs the Forum, said: “The vast majority of our industry’s customers are genuine. We’re sending out a clear message to the rest that abuse of our services is not tolerated. BCA members are strengthening their networks. We are sharing information and collaborating across the sector so that no one slips through the net.”
Celia Donne, regional director of global workspace provider Regus and a founder member of the VOF said: “As the largest supplier of virtual offices in the UK we wholeheartedly support this initiative. By strengthening industry best practice we will ensure that those individuals who operate below the required ethical and business standards will not be tolerated.”
Jennifer Brooke of the BCA said: “As a leader of best practice in this sector, the BCA is delighted to be part of this initiative. We have been working hard for years to ensure that our members are compliant with all relevant regulations, including EU money laundering regulations.
Under our established membership compliance which includes a code of conduct and consumer charter, if the authorities request information on any of our member’s clients, we release it.
The BCA strongly believes that cross industry collaboration is the way forward.”