Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) has accused some solicitors of hiding extra charges in the small print of their quotes.
Issuing a warning to consumers, CLS said that in a highly competitive business like conveyancing, “it is all too easy to find yourself buying what looks like a cheap conveyancing service when, in fact, the end price will be inflated by hidden charges”.
The move is the first sign of an aggressive push by CLS in the wake of receiving its alternative business structure licence and announcing plans to recruit 3,000 extra staff over the next five years.
It said: “When scrutinising the small print of your conveyancing quotes, look out for abbreviations, which are sometimes used to help conceal extra charges. A common example is ‘PI’ or ‘PI contribution’, the PI standing for professional indemnity insurance. This is an overhead and should be included in the solicitor’s basic fee.
“Another common abbreviation is ‘TTF’ for telegraphic transfer fee. This fee will apply if amounts of £60,000 or more are being transferred, for example, if you are redeeming your mortgage. However, if the amount is less than this, the BACS system can be used for free.”
CLS – which was promoting its own service, including a ‘no sale, no fee’ guarantee – advised consumers against instructing solicitors who charge by the hour, and that they should steer clear of those who include in the “small print” other overheads such as postage and phone calls, as well as time spent dealing with the lender and filling out paperwork.
Similarly, if disbursements are not itemised “or again, if ‘added extras’ appear in the small print, it may be best to look elsewhere”, it said.
A spokesman said: “Moving house is stressful enough without the worry of unexpected extra conveyancing costs. That’s why it’s important to use a reputable and reliable service that offers free advice and a ‘no move, no fee’ guarantee.”