Consumers using an online estimate generator should not have to give lawyers their contact details before receiving the figure, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) has said.
Many firms make this a condition of receiving an online quote to help them convert potential clients.
The first regulator to issue guidance on how firms should implement price transparency requirements, the CLC has mandated what information the conveyancers and probate practitioners it regulates must display, but not how it is displayed on their websites.
The guidance said it could take the form of examples of fixed fees based on specific values or a range of values of properties, hourly rates of members of staff with indicative timescales for transactions, or through instant estimate generators.
But the CLC stressed: “The generator should produce an instant estimate directly to the consumer. A consumer shouldn’t have to provide contact details to receive a call-back or email for an estimate.”
The regulator has published templates and examples of displaying cost information.
Firms have to publish:
- The total cost of the service or, where not practicable, the average cost or range of costs;
- A description of the service offered;
- The fee, or where not practicable, the average fee or range of fees;
- Whether fees are determined as a fixed sum or by reference to hourly rates;
- A description and the value or likely value of disbursements, including land tax;
- Whether VAT is payable on fees or disbursements and, if so, in each case the amount of VAT payable;
- Whether the firm has referral arrangements with third parties, whether a referral fee is paid and, if so, the fee or average referral fee payable.
Service information on firms’ websites must include a description of the services they provide, key stages of the services, indicative timescales, and the staff mix, their experience and qualifications.
The new rules comes into force on 6 December.
CLC chief executive Sheila Kumar said: “Those we regulate need to start working now to help potential clients make a better-informed choice of lawyer.
“We have been consulting and talking about these changes for two years now and so we do not believe that this will cause firms undue difficulty. The guidance will help practices understand what is required, while the benefit to consumers could be considerable.
“I hope those we regulate will see these new rules as an opportunity to really differentiate themselves in what is a highly competitive market and so better appeal to clients on grounds other than just price.
“Helping consumers understand the value of the service they offer, the benefits of how they offer that service and the experience the client should expect will help the consumer make a more informed choice.”
The Solicitors Regulation Authority is expected to publish guidance on its transparency rules in the next day or two.