The Association of British Insurers has opened a new front in its ongoing battle with the Law Society by arguing that solicitors’ representative body should not automatically receive a cut of the practising certificate fee.
The Association of British Insurers may call for the fixed fees payable under the RTA portal to be slashed by nearly 90% to £150 as part of its negotiation strategy, a leaked e-mail has revealed.
The government needs to provide further clarity and guidance on how the ban on referral fees will operate in practice, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has warned. Issues such as the definition of a referral fee need to be resolved.
There is a “growing lobby” to stop claims management companies, solicitors and insurers from using alternative business structures to get around the ban on referral fees, it was claimed yesterday. Insurers were also asked to be honest about whether motor premiums will go down after the ban.
Some 138 law firms have closed after entering the assigned risks pool in the past two years, while solicitors who do not pay their ARP premiums are being pursued into bankruptcy, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has reported. Most of the firms (119) shut through an orderly wind-down, while 19 were closed by an SRA intervention.
The Ministry of Justice seems in undue haste to push the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – snappily nicknamed LASPO – through the House of Commons. Having broken parliamentary convention by not allowing two weekends between presenting the bill to Parliament and the second reading last week, the government wanted it to start the committee stage today. However, after protests from the opposition, this will now begin next Tuesday.
The furore over referral fees has come out of nowhere. In the past three weeks, the Sunday Times, the Daily Mail, the Sunday Telegraph and, this week, The Times with the help of Jack Straw, have all climbed into the trade in claims. There has been an increasing focus on the role of insurance companies – referral fees’ most vehement critic – in actually fuelling them, which has certainly put the industry on the spot. The “if we don’t do it, everyone else will” argument put forward by the Association of British Insurers is not exactly an attractive one.
Reaction to the Legal Services Board’s decision document last week on referral fees has been predictable. The Law Society and Bar Council were deeply unhappy, as was the Association of British Insurers (not an organisation with which Chancery Lane often makes common cause).
Michelle Garlick, a partner in the professional risk team at Legal Futures Associate Weightmans, considers the changes the SRA is planning to make to the professional indemnity insurance regime and is not surprised that it is not happening as quickly as insurers wanted. But in the meantime they will be reviewing their risk assessments and underwriting criteria very carefully.
Proposals from the “timid” Solicitors Regulation Authority to reform the market for professional indemnity insurance are inadequate and will only worsen already fears for the future of the market, the Association of British Insurers has warned. However, the SRA’s blueprint has been welcomed by the Law Society and the Council of Mortgage Lenders.