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Advertising watchdog clears Law Society over “misleading” CQS claims

Law Society: ASA backs claims

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has rejected a complaint by a solicitor that the Law Society misled consumers by claiming that all members of its Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) go through “rigorous examination and testing to demonstrate that they have a high level of knowledge, skills, experience and practice”.

The decision will be a relief to the society given the recent ruling of the Competition Appeal Tribunal that it abused a dominant position [1] through requiring CQS firms to undertake its own training.

Complaining to the ASA about wording on the society’s website last November, the unnamed solicitor said he believed there was no assessment of firms’ expertise or quality of service before they joined the scheme.

The Law Society’s own figures showed that, between 2014 and 2016, just two applications to join CQS had been rejected, out of approximately 300 received. Further, just two firms had had their accreditations revoked since 2010.

The complainant said this was evidence that the checks could not be considered “rigorous”.

But in its adjudication [2], published today, the ASA said: “We noted that the CQS was an accreditation scheme for firms that were already active in providing conveyancing advice, and considered it was reasonable to expect that the majority of them would meet the requisite standards.

“We considered that the Law Society had demonstrated that the information submitted by applicants was examined rigorously to determine whether they had met those standards.”

The society explained to the ASA in detail what information applicants were required to provide and how it was assessed by the CQS technical assessment team undertook its role.

It highlighted that all accredited practices were audited on an annual basis and at other times when there was reason to believe that a firm was not complying with the rules.

There were also significant training requirements and the ASA said: “Based on the information provided by the Law Society, we considered that by passing the training, relevant members of staff would demonstrate that they had knowledge of key areas of residential conveyancing.”

It concluded: “Overall, we considered that the combined requirements of the CQS were sufficient to demonstrate that accredited firms went through rigorous examination and testing to demonstrate that they had a high level of knowledge, skills, experience and practice. We therefore concluded that the ad was not misleading.”