In my experience most professionals definitely do not charge - no!
I've asked many people to change IPS tags and never heard of such a thing - it is a quick 5 minute job.
This sounds to me like a last-ditch desperate attempt to keep their business
Like: "if you leave me it's going to cost you another £40"
If that really is the case it's rather shocking behavior!
I know times are hard, but still I think that we online agencies need to maintain a level of professionalism here, if a customer chooses to move on to another provider, then fair enough to try to talk them into staying with you, but charging them to leave almost seems like blackmail!
Plus it's better to maintain a level of professional courtesy with other web agencies, as you never know when you might just need them to do the same thing for you - or some other kind of help
As a first step it's probably worth calling up the old designer, have a chat with them directly - see what their side of the argument is, and also use it as an opportunity to get the facts straight from the horse's mouth, ask them what is actually involved in them changing the IPS tag and ask them straight if £40 seems like a reasonable cost for that much work, tell them that you've spoken to other professionals (like me!) and they say that they don't charge a fee.
Failing that, if you can't reach an agreement and still think they're being unreasonable, it's worth taking at look at the Domain Registry (somewhere like nominet.org.uk ) and look up who actually owns the domain.
If it's been set up properly then the client themselves should own the domain - if so, then they should be in a position to get the ADMIN-C contact on the domain changed from the old designer (who wants to charge £40) to the new designer (you I guess?) for free - normally this is done through the Registrar of the domain (somebody like 123-Reg)
Once that's done then you should be able to change the IPS tag for them, effectively freezing the old website designer out of the equation.
If the domain was not set up to belong to the client, then it would most likely belong to the old supplier - so it does sound like they might be a little bit trapped.
Worse case, take a look at contracts (if there are any) and see if there's any previous written agreement to pay for a transfer or any other way to wriggle out of paying
If they have no contract, then you could always send the old supplier an invoice for £40 for your own time spent organising things because of their lack of willingness to cooperate.
When they protest you can point out that that this, by their own terms can only be fair as you're charging £40 for a few minutes work without any kind of pre-agreed contract!
...not sure you'll get anywhere with that argument, but it'd be fun to point it out, and you never know it might shame them into just doing it for free like they should have done in the first place!
Good luck - let us know how you get on please!
Thanks for the information Nick, I will continue to negotiate with the web designer and I will use some of the points you raised.
I contacted the domain regstrar, which is Fasthosts, and even though the domain is registered in my customer's name they cannot transfer. They instead suggested that I transfer through Nominet for which there appears to be a £10 charge. At least it's not going into the web designers pocket.
Yes that's true if it's a .co.uk domain (or any other UK one) then Nominet will charge £10 admin fee if they have to do stuff for you - but they are at least up front and open about that.
You might also want to point out Nominet's Good Practice Terms to the other supplier:
He's supposed to make his customers aware (in advance) of charges associated with domain names - so you could potentially complain to Nominet
Perhaps mentioning this too might help him see the light and just get the job done for you.
Just to let you know the outcome on the above dispute.
My client went through Nominet and after considerable hassle they transfered the domain name at a total cost of £27. Frustrating when it could have been transferred in a few minutes by the web designer but we got there.
Thanks Nick for your contributions.