HWG Resources FAQs HWG Pricing FAQ

HWG Pricing FAQ

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  1. Can Guild Members hold pricing discussions in the mailing lists?
  2. Is it illegal to discuss pricing?
  3. Doesn't freedom of speech allow me the freedom to say anything I want?
  4. Isn't the Guild being overly cautious?
  5. I'm not in the U.S., why should I be bound by American laws?
  6. So what are acceptable and unacceptable topics?
  7. So how do I figure out what to charge, or what I should be charging?
  8. On-Line Reference material for pricing issues

  1. Can Guild Members hold pricing discussions in the mailing lists?

    The short answer: NO.

    Discussions of pricing issues are not allowed and will be cause for immediate removal from the list and possible revocation of your guild membership.

    Keep these points in mind:

    • The HTML Writers Guild will not suggest or recommend fees/prices/wages, and is not involved in price-fixing in any manner.
    • Discussion of rates, what to charge, etc. on the list will be sufficient grounds for immediate unsubscription by the list administrator. Such discussions can lead to criminal charges; just one list member can put us all at risk.
    • If you don't like these policies, don't subscribe to the Guild's mailing lists.
    • Any questions regarding this policy may be posted to the Guild' Operations Mailing List [hwg-ops].

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  2. Is it illegal to discuss pricing?

    The short answer: YES (at least in the U.S. where many of our members are).

    The U.S. law specifically makes discussion of pricing between competitors (all or some) a federal offense. According to either Marshall Kragen or Lewis Rose (both practicing lawyers), several brokers in DC were successfully prosecuted for simply discussing an increase of fees at a dinner meeting.

    When, where, or how doesn't matter. Any discussion of pricing by a group of people within the same industry is illegal in the U.S. The feds call it price fixing.

    For additional information on the legal aspects of price fixing, please visit the following locations:

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  3. Doesn't freedom of speech allow me the freedom to say anything I want?

    Short answer: NO

    Use of the Guild's mailing lists is a privilege, not a right; in return for this privilege, you are asked to follow a few simple rules. The "freedom of speech" guarenteed by the U.S. Constitution only protects you from governmental intervention in your right to express yourself -- it doesn't give you free reign to use computer resources against the wishes of their owner. Our lawyer friends have kindly (and in self-survival) pointed out that the Federal Law system in the U.S. and Canada consider pricing discussions by professional organizations to be price fixing which is a federal offense. This "consideration" position has been successfully proven in court.

    Some of you have argued that other guilds and unions publish price guidelines based upon the stated prices charged by members. Guides are not discussions. Those guides have all company specific information stripped from them, every service has a range of prices associated with it, the prices are compiled and the contributors have become anonymous to the process. How the guide is used is up to the individual reader. What the HTML Writers Guild has forbid is discussion of prices.

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  4. Isn't the Guild being overly cautious?

    The short answer: NO.

    Guild representatives have discussed the issue at length with Barry Grossman of the Department of Justice, an experienced anti-trust lawyer. Mr. Grossman stated that the line between legal and illegal activity can be hard to discern, and it is more than prudent to stay clear from that line. Each corporation needs to decide how close they wish to come to that line -- and what the benefits of doing so would be. This is primarily a business decision, and the Board of Directors of the Guild has decided to minimize the Guilds's legal risk.

    The Guild's current policy is broad enough to steer far from appearance of impropriety, as well as simple enough to be understood by the membership and the List Guides, few whom have the legal training that would be necessary to make more complicated decisions involving anti-trust laws.

    The Guild is being cautious -- but not overly so.

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  5. I'm not in the U.S., why would I be bound by American laws?

    The short answer: You're not -- but the Guild, a Georgia corporation, is.

    The Guild is an incorporated organization in the state of Georgia, which is part of the United States. We are legally bound by American and Georgia laws in everything we do. As such, the Guild is subject to anti-trust laws, enforced by the Department of Justice.

    If criminal activities, such as price fixing, occur on Guild-sponsored lists, it won't be the individual members who are hauled into court, but the officers of the Guild and the operators of the resources on which the lists are run.

    All members of the Guild are expected to follow the Guild's rules regardless of the nation they reside in; this really is for the protection of all of us.

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  6. So what are acceptable and unacceptable topics?

    Here's an outline of the boundaries. This list gives the range of acceptable and unacceptable topics on the guild lists.

    • Acceptable: Services rendered.
      Types of services provided, levels of service, quality of service and such are acceptable.
    • Acceptable: Source information for standard rates.
      Standard rates are published for most industries by independent sources. For those who are curious about where to get information about salaries, costs, etc, asking for, or providing pointers to information provided by independent 3rd parties is acceptable on the Guild Business Discussion List - [hwg-business]. In addition, the Guild has a FAQ on how to set your rates; it lists several methods.
    • Acceptable: Take it to email.
      If two people wish to take on a private discussion, that is their affair. The Guild and its members cannot prevent, nor does it have any interest in, a discussion between individuals. The Guild and its members as a group will not knowingly participate in or condone any discussions that may be construed as price-fixing.
    • Unacceptable: Any specific prices for the following items.
      • Products or services you are selling or are considering selling.
      • Web design services
      • Graphic design services
      • Web hosting services
      • Programming of web-based applications (java, cgi, browsers, etc.)
      • Internet access, mail list hosting, and other ISP services
      • Website advertising rates ("banner ads", etc.)
      • Internet consulting and training
      • Salaries of webmasters and other web professionals
      The list above is not exhaustve; if you are unsure if a topic is appropriate for the Guild's mailing lists, please write to the approriate List Guides and ask. A topic which may not fall under the "price fixing" ban could still be off-topic for a given Guild list, or inappropriate for other reasons as described in the Guild's rules.
    • Unacceptable: Collusive statements.
      Any statement in email to a guild list to the effect of : "that's a good price, we'll use that." that implies or directly states that two parties have discussed a number (whether on the list or in reference to a 3rd party page) and that they have "agreed" to use that price is strictly forbidden on the guild mailing lists. This is price fixing, this is collusion, this is prosecutable! If you don't think possible prosecution is a big deal, ask Phil Zimmerman how much money was spent on his defense over the last few years for the creation of PGP, or how many times he wondered whether he would ever get his life back.

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  7. So how do I figure out what to charge, or what I should be charging?

    The short answer: see the FAQ on setting your rates.

    The Guild consists of so many different types of members that any single statement would be insufficient for most of them. If you need to know, then go to the public sources available locally for that kind of information. The following sources exist in almost any geographical location in the U.S.:

    • The public library.
    • The Chamber of Commerce
    • The Small Business Administration
    • The Better Business Bureau
    • Small Business Development Centers (larger cities, usually)
    • The Internet (published prices on various indexes, or by individual sites)

    Each geographical location has different costs, different services, and different markets. Asking a person in Los Angeles CA USA what they make or charge for a particular service really doesn't apply to someone in Dodge City KS USA because the costs and markets are totally different. It applies even less in say: Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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  8. For more information on pricing issues.

    Below are other resources where pricing information may be found. If you know of another site or mailing list, then please contact the FAQ maintainer with that information.

    Web pages Mailing Lists
    • The Guy Kawasaki List - loosely managed by Guy Kawasaki. List covers Marketing Strategies. Send in the body of the message:
      subscribe kawasaki your_real_name
    Other Potential Sources
    • IWatch NetBix Alert! - a monthly electronic newsletter. Owned by Calvin Merrick (cybernet@atlcom.net) Send email to iwatch@pobox.com as the subject put:
      in the body put:
      your_email_address, your_full_name
    • Lycos - Put in price or pricing. You'll get lots of web pages where people have published their prices, you can look at the quality of their work, and you can probably find out their geographical location.

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This page is maintained by ckshort@hwg.org. Last updated on 3 September 1998.
Copyright © 1998 by the HTML Writers Guild, Inc.