By Legal Futures’ Associates Willis Towers Watson
On 6 December 2018 the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) introduced new Transparency Rules. These rules were introduced following the Competition and Markets Authority Legal Services Market Study published on 15 December 2016.
The Transparency Rules are aimed at making sure consumers have the information that they need to make an informed choice of legal services provider for specific services. This includes price and service information, details of your complaints handling procedure and details about how and when a complaint can be made to the Legal Ombudsman and to the SRA, which must be clearly displayed on your firm’s website.
In Spring 2019, the SRA undertook their first web sweep of firm’s websites to monitor compliance. 75% of websites were not fully compliant with the rules. The most common areas of non-compliance included failing to:
- publish the required complaint information
- detail the amount of VAT applied to costs and disbursements
- display information on key stages, or timescales
- provide a description or costs of likely disbursements
From 25 November 2019 an additional requirement will be to add the new SRA Digital Badge (Badge) to your website. This applies to all SRA regulated firms. There are several steps to the process which are detailed here https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/resources/transparency/ digital-badge.page
The Badge is provided by an external company, Yoshki, and firms should not be concerned by being referred to an external provider.
Use of the Badge is free, and the Badge should instantly identify your firm as being regulated by the SRA, differentiating yourselves from non-regulated providers. A recent SRA trial showed that 79% of people were more comfortable choosing a provider when a regulators badge was displayed.
The Badge is an interactive tool which is validated every day, with the current date displayed on all badges. This helps to prevent fraudulent use of the Badge and evidences that a firm’s regulated status is current.
Although not a mandatory requirement until 25 November 2019, the Badge is available for you to use on your website now and it is recommended that you add the Badge to your website in the interim period to avoid the risk of forgetting to do so and falling short of the Transparency Rules.
The SRA will continue to monitor compliance with the Transparency Rules, probably through further web sweeps, and will take appropriate action against those firms falling short.