Clients’ desperation grows as impact of Simplify cyber-attack stretches on

Facebook: Clients set up support group

Desperate consumers are looking at the feasibility of changing their lawyer as the impact of the cyber-attack on Simplify, the conveyancing giant, stretches into a second week.

The attack has generated ever more and more negative publicity as well, along with a string of one-star reviews on platforms like Trustpilot.

Simplify owns several well-known conveyancing brands affected by the attack – the nature of which is not yet known – and in its most recent update, issued on Friday, said it had restored IT systems “sufficiently to enable clients to move”.

As a result, “almost all contracted transactions with a fixed completion date are up to date”.

The statement continued: “We have been working non-stop and have substantially increased our customer relations teams to enable us to proactively contact almost all clients who are scheduled to complete.

“We had several days with minimal telephone capacity, but we now have around 300 colleagues making outbound phone calls to clients and this team, who will be working full-time, into the weekend, are calling every client with an update…

“We would assure you that we have been working round the clock to restore our operations. This includes carefully bringing systems online as part of a secure phased approach and finding workarounds to complete transactions safely.”

Simplify stressed that all client monies it was holding were safe, and that Cook Taylor Woodhouse, the Solicitors Regulation Authority-regulated firm it owns – operated on separate systems which were untouched by the attack.

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) – which regulates other firms in the group, including Premier Property Lawyers (PPL) and JS Law – said it visited Simplify and met its leadership on Friday “to review the steps they have taken to ensure transactions are completed and that client funds and data are protected”.

It went on: “We are reassured by the progress Simplify has made to date and by their plans for the remaining recovery work. However, we will continue to monitor the CLC-regulated practices to ensure that client interests continue to be secured and that the CLC’s own regulatory requirements are met.”

But consumers remain very anxious and critical about the communication from Simplify – earlier last week, the CLC said it had told the company to improve on this front.

A Facebook support group for clients set up on Friday evening already has 250 members, with one woman saying she had “never felt so ill and stressed”.

Several members on the group have discussed whether they could change lawyers.

One wrote: “We have this week decided to switch conveyancing firms as our chain are desperate to move before Christmas and even though we have already paid search money to PPL and were due them back this past week we didn’t want to hold up the chain so have just pressed on with someone else – will obviously cause a delay but hopefully not too bad and they are positive they can catch up.”

Another urged search companies to be flexible for customers who wanted to do this. “They are saying that they won’t provide the searches to anyone other than the company who requests them… but if PPL system down they aren’t going [to] be able to accept them or find them to forward them on!”

PPL has recorded over 25,000 reviews on Trustpilot and currently has a score of 4.2 stars (out of five), despite a welter of one-star reviews in the last few days. One said: “Current situation is we are homeless with a 7 year old, out of pocket with removals and time off from work.”

There has also been an increasing number of stories in the national media, with the BBC website highlighting the experiences of people left in limbo by the attack and in some cases homeless.

    Readers Comments

  • smbrookes says:

    The situation is diabolical. We have sold through Strike which has gone well but has now come to a complete halt. We didn’t use the Conveyancers (PPL) using our own tried-and-tested solicitor but our purchasers did. Trust Pilot still showing the ‘excellent’ status even through poor reviews are pouring in almost by the minute and absolutely no contact from the companies. A complete meltdown in terms of trust and confidence. How will these companies recover and what impact will this have on us buyers/sellers? This could impact confidence in the whole sector. CLC need to act now.

  • Jordan Scarsbrook says:

    Does anyone know the name of the Facebook support group for this? We have been severely effected by all this and we are disgusted

  • Stu says:

    The conveyancers are still not making contact all the additional support that they have said they are no providing us just a customer service team saying we can’t do anything until our systems are back and that’s all we’ve heard for for over a week

  • Spencer says:

    It’s beggars belief that this has run into a second week with no contact from premier property lawyers. Disgusting that emails are ignored and no other way to co tact them

  • Rosie says:

    When Conveyancing goes rogue – Help Support and Advice.

  • Emma says:

    When convayencing goes rouge – help and support.
    Something along then lines

  • Kevin Potter says:

    Even without the IT system problems that Premier Property Lawyers are experiencing I am fast approaching 8 months and have no idea when I will complete, for the last 2 months all I get is that “we are close” emails not answered, complaints to both PPL and my estate agent Fox and Sons (part of the same group as PPL) have never been acknowledged and total incompetence when dealing with my buyers queries. I’m at my wits end and very angry at the contempt with whichI have been treated.

  • Clive Smith says:

    The situation is appalling. I was due to exchange contracts via JS Law last week, now this is and my purchase is likely to fall through. As of today I’m told they still have no idea if and when the systems will be back up; could be days, weeks or months! The worst aspect is that there seems to be absolutely no contingency plan in place and the files are inaccessible, so can’t be transferred to another solicitor. Even worse is the total absence of any communication – I have received no contact. We are powerless and in the dark. A complete shambles!

  • Michelle says:

    Was supposed to exchange and complete on the 12th. I am in this situation due to our buyer using PPL. Seller is about to pull out. House packed up and ready to go. No idea of timeframe and not a priority case as not exchanged. I am feeling lucky that have at least a roof over my head as some left homeless. The stress everyone is under because we cannot get the facts. We are all being treated appallingly. At a loss as to know how to prepare. My heart goes out to everyone caught up in this mess.

  • Howell lovell says:

    Completely agree with all comments above. PPL were appalling before this. They are clearly not fit for purpose and hopefully this scandal will be the end of them. I used them on the recommendation of Purple Bricks and they surely must explain why they recommend such an appalling firm

  • E Isl says:

    Im in the same situation where im not being priortised as i havent exchanged yet but was almost ready to exchange before the crash , i have gotten no information from ppl and no calls i have had to call them, they just say thier hands are tied, does any know what we can do or how we can get answers its been a week and a half of being left in total darkness.

  • Gavin Button says:

    To be fair, our conveyancer from PPL has been in touch several times over the course of this technical catastrophe. The main benefit of this conveyancer is their digital dashboard, and so many customers who are on here complaining have probably benefited from it, but it goes both ways. So when a catastrophe such as this happens, suddenly their biggest advantage is their biggest weakness. Now, true they possibly could have had better risk mitigation given the importance of this system, but before anyone jumps on any bandwagons, it’s best to make sure all the facts are established, as it’s impossible to mitigate every risk and from what I understand they are not 100% certain of what has happened yet anyway. I worked for a company that had a catastrophic IT Failure a few years ago and I can assure you, that everyone who I worked with was absolutely working tirelessly to get around the problems it caused or to indeed sort the problems out that caused it, no one was just thinking oh well, nevermind! And I am sure it’s probably the same at PPL so maybe people should just be kind, even though it’s hard when something as stressful as moving house goes wrong, it’s still the best option and the option most likely to get you through it.

  • Gavin Button says:

    I have found it frustrating but to be fair PPL have been in touch with me several times and kept me in the loop in regards to my sale & purchase. I doubt very much there are people at PPL just sitting there not caring about what is going on. They are probably all just doing their best to get this sorted and sadly, there will always be people who get quite seriously affected but we don’t know what caused this or even if there was anything they could have done to prevent it. Best to be kind to all people here and try and have faith that people are just doing their best, even if it means they don’t all jump to peoples angry shouting! 🙂

  • Homeless says:

    We are unfortunately also in the same boat as many others and the stress is also making us Ill. I do feel for the staff at PPL and am grateful for the calls received but we need actual help and information now as to how and when we can get exchanged or when our documents can be retrieved and how long that would take so we can move forwards in some way.

  • Mike says:

    I am not convinced this disaster is a result of a cyber attack by an external agency. IF it was they would have been obliged to inform us of the type of attack and potential risk to our data.

    If it were a denial of service attack, a ransomware demand, a data breech or whatever we would know what type of “external” threat there is, they would also have had to inform the ICO.

    My theory is that this IT disaster is INTERNAL not an external threat. My history with them is that my conveyancer was changed without my consent – I was “re-panelled” -that is shifted to a different firm by the agent without informing me except via an “amended” sales notification. Tis led to me redoing all my initial paperwork.

    Next my buyer who also used the agent’s panel has changed their lawyer and I find out now that 2 months after agreeing the sale price no searches have even started.

    My belief is that the agencies have been shifting conveyancers for their own financial benefit but they messed up, the data and it is messed up as they were deleting earlier conveyancing details.
    They have no ability to restore the system as the past few weeks have been them corrupting their own data/system. They have no safe data restore date, as they no longer have reliable data – just a complete mess.

    This is why this downtime is now measured in weeks, the longest running “security” failure anyone in my industry has experience of. They are back to manual case processing but without paperwork or reliable electronic records.

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