Close Protection - Buyer Beware!
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Close Protection – Buyer Beware!

Close Protection – Buyer Beware!

The Caveat…

The Caveat…

Private security industry ‘regulation’ per se, remains a complex thing.  As with the regulation of any industry, approach to legitimising regulation must have an equal balance of both public and economic rationales so to not undermine the concept of sovereign state security.  In so doing and as a self-regulating body, it has to be seen to apply fairness to both aspects in the selling and buying of the market.  An irregular balance in regulation can affect the market negatively which in turn can be bad for consumers and hence, bad for the State.  Yet, this approach, whilst in the main generally relevant to the entire private security industry as a collective of industry sectors, detrimentally affects the most specialist sector of all – Close Protection.  Due to the very fact that the SIA work on behalf of the Home Office and due to one of the Home Office’s very own agenda of statistical concern with increasing employment and reducing unemployment, together with those market rationales as described, the SIA cannot be seen to be placing barriers to employment.

The commercial world of Close Protection is as the word suggests – commercial.  Close Protection is a ‘business’.  Unlike the focus of reason for the provision of personal protection within government and military fields being the effective mitigation and control of risk, the private sector reason ultimately befalls to that of the generation of profit.  Yet, those receiving that protection within government or military or indeed, private sector may all have a very serious reason for that protective provision.  With the lack of transparency by authorities such as the SIA in regards to their approach and why they have decided upon lowest standards, how does any prospective client know that what he or she is buying is actually fit for purpose and actually does what the service title, company statement and website blurb suggest – not to mention the very fact that within the UK specifically, much emphasis is placed on a government recognised licensed scheme?

Caveat Emptor – Let the buyer beware!

Caveat Emptor is a Latin term that means, “let the buyer beware.” Similar to the phrase “sold as is,” this term means that the buyer assumes the risk that a product may fail to meet expectations or have defects[1]. In other words, the principle of caveat emptor serves as a warning that buyers have no recourse with the seller if the product does not meet their expectations.  The assumption is that buyers will inspect and otherwise ensure that they are confident with the integrity of the product before completing a transaction. This does not, however, give sellers the green light to actively engage in fraudulent transactions.

Caveat Emptor in Practice

Under the principle of caveat emptor, for example, a consumer who purchases a coffee mug and later discovers that it has a leak is stuck with the defective product. Had they inspected the mug prior to the sale, they may have changed their mind. A more common example is a used car transaction between two private parties (as opposed to a dealership, in which the sale is subject to an implied warranty). The buyer must take on the responsibility of thoroughly researching and inspecting the car—perhaps taking it to a mechanic for a closer look—before finalising the sale. If something comes up after the sale, maybe a transmission failure, it is not the seller’s responsibility. Garage sales offer another example of caveat emptor, in which all sales are final and nothing is guaranteed.

Caveat Venditor – Let the seller beware!

Most sales in the West fall under the principle of caveat venditor, which means “let the seller beware,” by which goods are covered by an implied warranty of merchantability. Unless otherwise advertised (for example, “sold as is”) or negotiated with the buyer, nearly all consumer products are guaranteed to work if used for their intended purpose.

For example, a consumer who purchases a coffee grinder that lacks the power to grind coffee beans may return the product for a full refund under an implied warranty of merchantability. But if the same buyer purchased a used coffee grinder at a thrift shop marked “sold as is,” returning the product later may prove difficult. While caveat emptor is no longer the rule for consumer transactions, it’s important to know when the exception applies.

The Caveat to SIA Close Protection

It becomes an odd conception then that the approach of the SIA is very much ‘Caveat Emptor’ – buyer beware. They pass the buck of shouldering the responsibility in terms of standards and fit for purpose to that of the consumer, (client).  There is zero guarantee that what a client buys (protection)[2] is what the client gets.  Unlike the caveats above related to products, CP is a service and much ado with that service is unseen.  When Close Protection is ‘bought’ and someone is then present within the immediate vicinity of the Principal as a result, this ‘presence’ is the only tangible evidence that the service of ‘CP’ acquired is present.  The client rightly assumes that within the UK specifically, the individual stood close to them and providing their security is able and capable to do so based on the very fact that in the least the individual has a government recognised license.

Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.  The service of Close Protection is, in the main, provided on a short duration basis.  The company providing the CPO(s) are rarely requested for the CV’s of the ‘CPO’s’ by the clients due to this short duration and the trust that prospective clients have in their chosen CP company providers is conducted based on the assumption that the company providing the service are providing individuals that have been trained and are experienced in the provision of protective security.  The buyer is unaware that specifically in the incidence of a real threat, that their security, although may have been former military or police, has only attended a 2-week course that fails to train an individual to a correct workable standard and that their lives of themselves and their families are reliant on that standard.

As I undertook the mammoth research project of private sector Close Protection on a global scale for the benefit of understanding in detail what standards are implemented in all other countries, I was shocked to discover that in many countries and throughout the US, the profession of ‘Close Protection/ Bodyguard’ is not only not catered for in terms of training, licensing and regulation but it is not recognised as a profession whatsoever.  This contrasts with countries stipulating pre-course loading requirements in terms of candidate related security industry employment experience with some, albeit little, conscientious decision-making process of required training core competencies within their course. Legal obligations regarding operating within the scope of private sector CP employment naturally also vary, ranging from stringent eligibility processes to none at all. Obligations differ for those local nationals (LN’s) to those visiting the country or State.  They in turn differ whether you are working as a self-employed contractor, employed by a company or directly employed by the client.  It is, one could say, a situation full of hidden problems, a minefield.  But these obligations are not imposed based on aspects relating to competency or proficiency but local laws concerning general occupational/ employment and work law, together with visa permits in country in addition to those related to carriage/ ownership of firearms. 

It remains of widespread opinion, that industry standards are required, that licensing and regulating the industry is required – if it is to reduce crime and be taken seriously.  However, processes by overarching authorities need to take a pragmatic stance in their approach if standards are to serve a purpose and actually benefit service provision.  Authorities need to operate entirely independently with no vested interests – or remit to supporting and abiding by government departments’ obligations.  If the reason(s) for the provision of that protective security experience real threat(s) then any mitigation and control versus those threat(s) swing the advantage in favour for the latter – right from the start. 

‘Risk Tolerance’ versus ‘Risk Capacity’ is not a competition to be endured… 

[1] The term is actually part of a longer statement: Caveat emptor, quia ignorare non debuit quod jus alienum emit (“Let a purchaser beware, for he ought not to be ignorant of the nature of the property which he is buying from another party.”)

[2] Throughout all of its multi-faceted aspects in terms of threat and risk assessment, risk mitigation and control, proactivity, reactivity and advice and guidance, in addition to all of the professional skills to conduct the role.

Richard Aitch
Director of Operations
Mobius International UK Ltd &
Mobius International Ltd

 

Mobius International UK Ltd Close Protection Operators/ Bodyguards are all former specialist government protection unit having served as Personal Protection Officers to the British Royal Family, UK Prime Minister and other ministers, British Ambassadors and Senior Military Command Staff together with the provision of protection to specific persons of a targeted threat.  In effect, we have re-written the commercial/ private sector approach by the delivery of the highest standards in Close Protection. By solely using former government CP trained operators, our level of service is unsurpassed.