UPDATE, November 2014: The gag rule is dead! The Federal Trade Commission got wind of it happening (across many professional associations, not specifically the PSA), and put a stop to it. PSA has changed their guidelines in compliance.
Imagine a job where if someone else's client approaches you about switching, because they were unhappy with the current relationship, you are bound by your professional association to report this to your rival.
Imagine you're the client. If you are seen talking to the rival firm, you can yourself be reported for an ethical violation, you risk destroying your current relationship, and the current firm can, in fact is encouraged to, sabotage your ability to hire a new firm. Doesn't matter if the current firm is abusive, incompetent, or unresponsive. If you talk to another firm, even if you leave your issues out of the conversation, you are in violation of the ethical standards of the industry.
Imagine an industry that tacitly encourages its clients to stay in arrears, so that they can prevent the client, legally, from switching to another firm, based on unpaid bills.
Imagine an industry where your firm doesn't offer a product that's available at the rival firm, and that your client needs. The client isn't allowed to seek it, and the firm isn't allowed to advertise it to your client.
Imagine an industry where my client isn't allowed to tell your client how much they like me.
Welcome to figure skating.
The issue is Solicitation, Tampering and Promotion, and it's a big big topic of discussion in coaching circles. Famous coaches have lost their right to attend competitions over it. Skaters have ended careers rather than run up against the rules. Reputations have been destroyed over rumors of violations.
Solicitation is the Big Bad Wolf of the issue-- seeking to acquire a student who already has another coach. Of course, you don't always have control over it, because if the student or parent comes to you and you don't immediately shut down the discussion and report the student to the current coach, and it gets out, you are in career-ending trouble. Tampering is "undermining a coaching relationship" for instance by encouraging, or even by not discouraging your skaters from singing your praises to the skater of another coach or his/her parents. Promotion is just marketing--neutral advertisement of your services, like this website. Just be careful who you market to. Some rinks are so skittish that they don't even allow you to pass out business cards on the premises.
Coming from a performing arts background, I could not wrap my head around this when I learned of it. What do you mean, I can't talk privately to a different teacher if I don't like the current one? And they have to "report" me? It was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard.
If you're a serious competitor who needs to be with a different coach, you practically have to quit skating before you can switch. If you're in a small market, the dumped coach can make your life miserable.
If you just suspect that your coach is not what you need, you cannot ask around and find out. Other coaches won't talk to you. Other parents won't talk to you. You literally cannot get the information that you need to make an informed decision. It's patronizing, insulting and paternalistic, assuming that all coaches will try to steal students, and that parents aren't capable of recognizing good vs. bad information from their own or other coaches.
I have run up against this often. Because of the types of students I take (recreational and low level only), and because of the blog, parents do approach me looking for neutral advice. I'd give it, if I was allowed. I recently had to tell a parent, who in fact has an unqualified coach that is holding their skater back, that I could not talk about it.
I call it the gag rule.
So here's a career-ending opinion:
The gag rule is bullshit. If you can't hold onto your students, that's not my problem. If you let bills go unpaid, you're just a bad businessperson and it serves you right if the student leaves without paying you. The gag rule is unfair to the parents, allows incompetent coaches to thrive, and prevents young coaches from establishing themselves. Get rid of it.