National Accident Helpline is giving up its authorisation as a claims management company and will in future be overseen by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), Legal Futures can reveal.
Its parent company NAHL Group, which is listed on AIM, said this was the next stage of its “strategic personal injury plan” that saw it create a wholly owned alternative business structure (ABS) regulated by the SRA, National Accident Law, a year ago.
This is in addition to two joint venture ABSs with law firms NewLaw Solicitors and Horwich Cohen Coghlan, while a third – with Lyons Davidson – collapsed just before Christmas.
National Accident Helpline is currently regulated as a claims management company by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). From June, its marketing activity and contact centre will be conducted by National Accident Law and its brand will become one of the law firm’s trading names.
The group will continue to work with a panel of law firms and joint venture ABS partners, and it would be “business as usual” for them.
But in light of the Civil Liability Act reforms – due to come into force on 1 August, subject to the impact of the coronavirus crisis – the group will start to run more of its road traffic-related personal injury claims through National Accident Law.
Simon Trott, chief executive of NAHL Group’s personal injury division, said: “We are pleased to be deploying the next stage of our strategic plan, which involves us moving our regulated activity from the FCA to the SRA.
“We have a constructive relationship with the FCA and obtained full authorisation from them in January. We are now having productive discussions with them around our transition plans.
“The removal of dual regulation enables us to reposition our brand and significantly enhance our customer proposition. Customers will be able to progress their claims more quickly as there will be less need for call transfers.”
Under the current process, National Accident Helpline advisers undertake an initial triage and do not give legal advice or take steps to progress cases onto the claims portal – this will be possible once it forms part of the ABS.
Mr Trott said the change would also enables National Accident Law to process small claims “far more efficiently, which is an important requirement once the Civil Liability Act is implemented”.
He added: “The move to a single regulator will also enhance our ability to deliver a digital claims journey to customers who prefer to engage with the business online.”
NAHL’s shares crashed two months ago after it said uncertainty in the PI market would significantly affect its performance in 2020, meaning it had to suspend paying any dividends.
NAHL’s share price ended 2019 on 100p, down 7% on the year, and a long way from its 2015 peak of 404p.
It then fell to 56p on the back of the February announcement and went as low as 34p last week as the whole market dived in response to the pandemic. The price has since recovered a little, closing yesterday at 41p.