Government priorities: call to protect consumers

The Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) has called on the incoming government to protect the title of ‘legal executive’ as a matter of consumer protection.

Unveiling a nine-point manifesto ahead of the final leaders’ debate, ILEX and its regulatory arm, ILEX Professional Standards (IPS), said: “Currently any person can purport to be a legal executive lawyer, regardless of whether they are qualified with ILEX or hold any legal qualifications.

“In order to protect them, consumers rightly need to be assured that a person who is described as a legal executive is qualified in law and practice; has substantial experience of providing legal services; and is regulated, just as they are for those who are stated as a solicitor or a barrister. ILEX and IPS will look to the incoming government to support the correct and appropriate use of qualification titles, through the licensing rules, and generally through regulation.”

ILEX also called for the regulation of estate agents “to ensure consumer clarity”. It explained: “We are concerned that a recent ILEX survey found that consumers were not being notified about referral fees. The ILEX report found evidence which indicated that many consumers are not being made aware that they are being recommended to a law firm, not because it benefits their transaction, but because of a business arrangement for the payment of fees. ILEX is concerned that these clients being charged more because a fee is exchanging hands. The Office of Fair Trading has also raised similar concerns.”

The other issues on ILEX’s shopping list are:

  • Legal aid deserts and the cull of the criminal supplier market;
  • The number of offences that continue to be created by an obligatory criminal justice bill each year;
  • Stop undermining the Human Rights Act;
  • Drop the identity cards project;
  • The civil courts have a public, as well as a private role, so “requiring litigants to meet the full cost of cases suggests wrongly that they are of interest only to parties directly concerned”;
  • Clarify departmental remits with the decision to make the Legal Services Commission an agency of the Ministry of Justice; and
  • A healthy legal services market and independent professions. “A healthy legal services market is dependent on proportionate regulation which does not impose unnecessary burden on providers or consumers.”

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