Price transparency regime for solicitors approved

Buckley: Significant first step

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has approved new rules proposed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) requiring law firms to publish prices.

LSB chief executive Neil Buckley described the rules as a “significant first step” in the SRA’s efforts to improve transparency, which “should help to promote competition and contribute to improving access to justice”.

In its application, the SRA said its objective was to “enable consumers to compare different providers and make informed choices about which provider will best meet their needs”.

Along with publishing prices on their websites for a selection of consumer and several business services, firms will have to publish details of their complaints procedures and display “in a prominent place” the SRA’s proposed new digital badge.

The consumer services covered by the new rules are residential conveyancing, probate, and immigration applications and appeals (excluding asylum).

Two further categories are advice and representation at magistrates’ courts in relation to summary-only road traffic offences and employment tribunal claims for unfair or wrongful dismissal.

Business services are advice and representation to employers in relation to defending employment tribunal claims for unfair or wrongful dismissal, debt recovery up to the value of £100,000, and advice and representation in licensing applications.

Under the new rules, costs information must include the total or average cost, the “basis for your charges, including hourly rates or fixed fees”, and the “experience and qualifications of anyone carrying out the work, and of their supervisors”.

Disbursements must be included, including whether they were subject to VAT, details of the services, such as “key stages of the matter and likely timescales for each stage”, and, where conditional fees or damages-based agreements were offered, the “circumstances in which clients may have to make any payments themselves for your services”.

All costs information must be “clear and accessible” and featured in a “prominent place” on websites.

Firms must also publish details of their complaints handling procedures, including how to complain to the Legal Ombudsman and the SRA, and display the firm’s SRA number and digital badge in a “prominent place”.

The LSB also approved a set of regulations paving the way for the SRA to set up a digital register of law firms, combining information on services offered with regulatory decisions.

Following LSB approval, the SRA has said the transparency rules will be implemented in December this year.

All of the legal regulators are taking action on transparency following the Competition and Markets Authority’s recommendations in 2016.

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers has also submitted its rule changes for approval by the LSB.

    Readers Comments

  • Jim says:

    The SRA should learn that selling legal services on price is madness. Any sensible professional sells on quality and expertise. If clients are given prominent costs information that is all they will choose firms on. Few will drop, quality will suffer, complaints and negligence claims will go up. We saw all those 30 years ago when we were first allows do advertise but could not say anything about quality. All we could do was list services and prices. Conveyancing went into a quality spiral it has never recovered from hence so many cut price poor quality firms.

  • Michael Porter says:

    These new pricing transparency regulations will challenge many a firm. Selling simply on price was never a good strategy and with clients expecting a better conveyancing experience with more frequent communication throughout their transaction this could be the opportunity conveyancers need to increase their pricing and produce the margin the work and risk conveyancing deserves….. but they first need to adopt a better approach to providing their Quote other than just sending an email never to follow-up.
    More instructions are there to be won rather than allowed to leak away. Staff need to be better trained in handling and dealing with the initial enquiry and firms need to think how they can provide a better client experience and promote it accordingly to comply with these new SRA regulations.

  • Catherine Wahlberg says:

    HAs anyone actually seen the rules?. Where are they?. It doesn’t matter what I google or enter into the search boxes of the SRA or TLS all I get is (wisdom!) about the consultation and that the rules have been approved. Where are the rules?.

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