MPs "worried" about confusion over regulation and quality of legal services

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By Legal Futures

29 March 2012

Townsend: firm view is that all legal services should be regulated

The vast majority of MPs are concerned that their constituents may not understand what legal services are regulated and which are not, new research has found.

The ComRes survey of 156 MPs, commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), also identified concern that there is insufficient redress for consumers of legal services.

With 72% of MPs agreeing that simplifying regulation of legal services should be a key priority for regulatory reform, the survey supports the SRA’s arguments that all legal services should be regulated as reserved legal activities, and that in time there should be a single regulator for the entire profession.

More than four-fifths (83%) were concerned about whether constituents understood which services are regulated, while 73% were worried about adequate redress – they were not asked whether they knew about the Legal Ombudsman.

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The survey uncovered further concerns about how consumers identify the quality of legal s

ervices, an issue currently being explored by the Legal Services Board with the help of the Legal Services Consumer Panel.

Some 86% of the MPs were concerned that their constituents did not have sufficient knowledge about whether or not the services they were buying were of good quality, and 85% thought their constituents would not know if the services they were using were appropriate for their needs.

This led 69% to suggest that there is currently insufficient quality assurance of legal services for consumers. Only 28% thought that it should be at the customer’s own risk if services were purchased that were of poor quality or irrelevant to their needs.

However, in every category, Conservative MPs were less likely to agree that these were problems than Labour or Liberal Democrats.

SRA chief executive Antony Townsend said: The survey adds weight to what we’ve been saying for a while and shows that MPs are also concerned about the complexity of legal services. Their response highlights that, for them, simplifying the regulation of legal services for consumers should be a priority for regulatory reform.

“Our firm view is that all legal services should be regulated, both in the public interest and in the interests of consumers.”

The SRA is holding a symposium on the scope of regulation next month.

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