Swathe of law firms face action after failing transparency test

Bradley: No excuse for firms that have done nothing

Dozens of law firms are at risk of enforcement action from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) after a check found that only 25% of websites were fully compliant with the new rules on price and service transparency.

In a review of 447 randomly selected law firm sites, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) found that nearly a fifth (17%) were not compliant at all, and 58% were only partially compliant.

The SRA checked 500 sites in total, but 53 did not work.

The regulator is following up with all firms where there were issues and has given the 78 firms that are not complying at all two months to do so, or the SRA will consider enforcement action.

Firms which are partially compliant have been asked to add the missing information. The SRA will then target these firms in future websweeps, which it plans to carry out a least twice a year

Since the beginning of December, firms have been expected to display price and other key information across a range of law areas to assist consumers in choosing between them.

In February, the SRA announced it would carry out randomised ‘sweeps’ of a selection of firms to check compliance with the rules.

At the time they came in, a Legal Futures snapshot survey suggested only around a quarter of firms displayed price information. Six months later, yesterday’s survey showed little progress had been made.

The most widespread failing was not displaying information on how to complain. Other areas included not specifying the amount of VAT applied to costs and not displaying information on key stages or likely timescales.

Many firms were also not providing a description or estimated costs of likely disbursements, and again not specifying where VAT applied.

The SRA said it would focus on immigration firms after one-third of the 83 examined were found not be complying at all.

Another poor-performing area was residential conveyancing. A quarter of the 210 firms tested were compliant but the same number were not complying at all.

Almost half of conveyancers failed to specify the amount of VAT applied to costs and disbursements and six out of 10 did not publish all or any complaints information.

The best-performing area of law was licensing applications for businesses. Only two of the 21 specialist firms tested were wholly non-compliant and two-thirds provided a description or the costs of likely disbursements.

Other significant findings were that three-quarters of the 56 firms handling motoring offences failed to provide a description or costs of likely disbursements. Nearly seven out of 10 gave inadequate complaints information.

SRA chair Anna Bradley said: “Most people struggle to access legal services and find shopping around difficult because of the lack of useful information.

“Our new rules aim to give people a fighting chance of understanding what they will get for their money.

“Our checks show that it’s a mixed picture at the moment. We can see that most firms are genuinely trying to comply, but I don’t think there is any excuse for those who have done nothing.

“They need to get their website in order quickly or we will need to consider enforcement action.”


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