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I know there are laws that stop agents charging before putting someone CV forward etc. However I don’t know if they will hit the stackoverflow career's website.

@Joel - you may be right that it is only "exclusive arrangements"

@Annakata - The employment agent regulations in the UK are very extensive and in the past have affected companies you would not think of as an employment agent. Belong that it needs a legal person that specializes in UK employment law.

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do you mean "...there are laws that stop agents..." –  Rich Seller Oct 9 '09 at 10:59
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I think that would be "agents with exclusive arrangements" –  Joel Coehoorn Oct 9 '09 at 16:06
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If you can't cite that law it doesn't exist. –  bananakata Oct 9 '09 at 19:52
    
s/Belong that/Beyond that/ ? –  Ether Oct 26 '09 at 15:56
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Some days, I do appreciate being in the USA. –  C. Ross Dec 10 '09 at 16:13
    
@C. Ross: We've got our own stupid laws over here, and they vary from state to state. The problem with a website is that you may have to worry about stupid laws of every jurisdiction on the planet. –  David Thornley Dec 10 '09 at 20:39
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@bananakata: That's a very dangerous attitude. Courts in general will not let you off easy because you didn't know the law. Otherwise, it would be too easy for criminals to deliberately remain ignorant. –  David Thornley Dec 10 '09 at 20:40
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6 Answers

IANAL, but I can't see how it would possibly be illegal. After all, it's not like SO is preventing you from also posting it on a free web site.

Think of it as being a bit like a dating site - and those clearly aren't illegal.

If you could show the details of the law you're talking about, it would make things a lot clearer.

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dating.stackoverflow.com -- hmm... –  balpha Oct 9 '09 at 13:10
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Haha... meta.stackexchange.com/questions/22795/… –  LeakyCode Oct 9 '09 at 13:40
    
More like this: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/22795/… –  Troggy Oct 9 '09 at 14:29
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@Troggy - that's the same as Mehrdad's link ;) –  ChrisF Oct 10 '09 at 10:50
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I guess the law everyone is refering The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003. Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_agency_worker_law) says "prohibits the charging of fees, except in a small number of mostly arts related professions (e.g. modelling)". Not sure how effects cso or non uk companies you would need a legal person for that. –  John Oct 10 '09 at 13:49
    
Interesting URL (the Wikipedia)...but isn't that dealing primarily with people who are employed by the agency, rather than people seeking a job that will make them an employee of the other company? I rather suspect that CSO will need to get formal legal advice on the issue. –  Jonathan Leffler Oct 10 '09 at 20:53
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@balpha: I'm pretty sure all 3 girls on SO have boyfriends or are married. ;-) –  Dexter Dec 10 '09 at 16:48
    
@Jonathan - no it was to stop scam agencies that charged job seekers to go on their books but never had any real jobs. There is a similar law against letting agencies charging tenants. Unfortunately crooks get around it today by charging a credit check fee instead. Either way it doesn't apply to careers.so - they are a just providing a publishing service no different from a hosting provider. –  Martin Beckett Dec 10 '09 at 18:31
    
I think I intended on linking directly to Mr. Skeets answer in that question instead of just linking to the question as Mehrdad did. It should be the accepted answer, but unfortunantly isn't. –  Troggy Dec 10 '09 at 21:19
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I've just seen this on Reddit from SO user Cletus. He cites a couple of articles that claim that charging candidates is illegal in the United Arab Emirates and in Australia.

So I did a bit of searching and the pages I found seem to suggest that it is illegal in South Africa and the UK as well. It also appears to be widely regarded as unethical, even where it is not illegal.

Now I don't know whether StackOverflow would meet the definition of a recruitment agency under these laws, but it's probably worthwhile for Joel and Jeff to find out. If they don't want to drop the fees for candidates it would perhaps be sensible to do some geolocation and block access to the service in locations were it might be illegal, and to refund fees to anybody from these locations who has already paid, in order to minimise any potential liability.

EDIT: I've found the relevant section of UK law: The Employment Agencies Act 1973, chapter 35, section 6:

6 Restriction on charging persons seeking employment, etc

(1) Except in such cases or classes of case as the Secretary of State may prescribe, a person carrying on an employment agency or an employment business shall not demand or directly or indirectly receive from any person any fee for finding him employment or for seeking to find him employment.

(2) Any person who contravenes this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding [F1level 5 on the standard scale].

Level 5 on the standard scale is a fine of £5000.

EDIT 2: The definition of an employment agency as per section 13 of the same act:

(2) For the purposes of this Act “employment agency” means the business (whether or not carried on with a view to profit and whether or not carried on in conjunction with any other business) of providing services (whether by the provision of information or otherwise) for the purpose of finding workers employment with employers or of supplying employers with workers for employment by them.

Of course, I am not a lawyer and don't actually know what I'm talking about so you should not rely on me for legal advice.

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SO is not a UK site –  staticx Jan 7 '10 at 19:48
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@Roboto: Doesn't matter, it's accessible from the UK and accepting payments from UK residents. As I understand it, SO directors could theoretically be arrested if they visit a country where their site is breaking the law (such as when Joel and Jeff visited the UK for Dev Days). This would be similar to directors of non-US Internet gambling companies being arrested when travelling to the US. Of course, I doubt it would happen as the authorities probably have more important things to spend their time on. –  Dan Dyer Jan 7 '10 at 19:56
    
@Dan: Red Herring. Unless they plan on going to Iran or N Korea, I'm sure they will be fine. –  staticx Jan 7 '10 at 20:02
    
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I am not a solicitor and all that... but I am tempted to add some uninformed conjecture.

Here's some related documentation:

Guidance On The Conduct Of Employment Agencies And Employment Businesses Regulations 2003

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The company is US-based, though, so if it is illegal in the UK, I doubt it would matter (then again, I know very little about international law).

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Depends on whether the company has a business presence in the UK, instead of just being reachable from the UK. People in the US constantly do things on the web that are illegal in other countries, such as porn, gambling, and perhaps the occasional defamation of the king of Thailand. –  David Thornley Oct 9 '09 at 15:22
    
I've no idea what law the OP might be referring to, but if hypothetically there were a law being infringed, it might cause problems for StackOverflow staff should they wish to visit the EU. There was a case in recent years of directors of Internet gambling firms being arrested when visiting the US even though their alleged "crimes" were committed elsewhere. The US authorities felt justified in their actions because the services were available from the US. Many gambling sites take measures to block US users to avoid potential liability. –  Dan Dyer Oct 9 '09 at 23:02
    
@David: and vice versa - much internet-based gambling is actually illegal in the US, it's actually illegal to provide most gambling services to US citizens, even from outside the country. Ostensibly for "moral" reasons, but probably as much to protect bricks-and-mortar casinos and also because gambling wins are taxable to the States. Directors of such companies are liable to arrest if they enter the US (and have been arrested), so there is some small chance that, if CSO charging is illegal here, Joel and/or Jeff might be subject to arrest and prosecution if they turn up to another UK DevDay... –  Mike Woodhouse Nov 10 '09 at 21:51
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Would a newspaper be allowed to charge you to post an ad that you are looking for a job?

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Well they didn't force you to post your CV, you clearly have to undertake a step to do this, so it's not like you have a strong case now have you?

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I don't wish to have ANY case; however this need investigating now before it is too late. –  Ian Ringrose Oct 9 '09 at 12:13
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It's not whether a user has a case or not, but is the site liable for prosecution by the UK government for breaking the law or not. I'd say the site should probably check with a liar –  Rich Seller Oct 9 '09 at 12:30
    
@Rich: Try checking with a lawyer; not all liars know much about the law. Make sure it's a British one. –  David Thornley Oct 9 '09 at 15:20
    
This looks deliberate: "not all liars know much about the law" –  random Oct 10 '09 at 10:19
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