Competition and Markets Authority mulls review of legal sector

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17 November 2014


Kenny: LSB not discouraging review

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is considering whether to launch a review of the legal services market, it has emerged.

It was a critical report in 2001 on competition in the professions by its predecessor, the Office of Fair Trading, which began the process that ultimately led to the Legal Services Act 2007.

Papers released last week by the Legal Services Board (LSB) revealed that it has held meetings with CMA officials at which it was “clear that they are considering whether the legal services market should be a priority for their work in 2015”.

LSB chief executive Chris Kenny said: “We did nothing to discourage them from pursuing the idea.”

There is another meeting scheduled for this month to “compare progress on both our organisations’ strategic plans”. The CMA’s current plan runs to 31 March 2015.

According to its published prioritisation principles, the CMA decides to act depending on the likely impact of its intervention, the strategic significance, the risks and the resource implications.

A spokeswoman said: “As part of its duty to promote competition, the Competition and Markets Authority routinely monitors markets across the economic spectrum, including this one. We have no further comment to make at this time.”

The OFT retained a strong interest in the legal market following the 2001 report – and indeed was a statutory consultee for certain major LSB decisions, a role now taken on by the CMA.

In a speech in 2011 to mark the 10th anniversary of the report, the OFT’s then chairman, Philip Collins, said its focus was on promoting competition in the professions and empowering consumers.

He concluded: “In setting ourselves a vision for what professional services markets might look like a further 10 years on, we should strive for a policy agenda which has delivered greater levels of liberalisation and consumer empowerment so that consumers are in a much better position to assess, and compare, quality and prices within, and across, professional services sectors.

“Those consumers will, in turn, have stimulated the UK’s professions to become more efficient, innovative and competitive.

“We envisage consumers being able to source from many more multi-disciplinary business models, combining skills of different professions, and less fragmented markets, with one-stop shop providers covering a much wider range of services catering for different categories of consumers more efficiently.

“If such greater levels of liberalisation, competition and consumer empowerment are achieved, the professional services sectors will provide an even more significant and valuable contribution to the UK’s economic growth.”

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