CLC Price Transparency Guidance Announced
If you are a member from the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), then the deadline for price transparency has been officially set for December 6th.
Yesterday, the CLC released their official guidance and pricing templates that will meet the minimum standard requirements in relation to quality, price and service transparency.
In addition to the guidance, the CLC have also published advice and suggestions on what consumers may want to see and expect in the future.
The guidance looks at the way firms should be transparent about: cost information, service information, regulatory information and complaints information. Firms without a website need to be able to easily provide information by ‘other reasonable means on request’ using formats like post, email and leaflets.
In terms of cost and price transparency, CLC expect firms to provide fixed fees. They believe that an instant estimate generator should be provided on a firm or third party website. Where a generator is used it should provide an instant estimate without a consumer providing their details.
Alongside price, firms should publish all staff hourly rates, their qualifications, experience, expertise and indicative timescales for the proposed transaction.
CLC guidance states: “It’s important to be clear about which services are included in the cost estimate and which are not. For example, whether your fees include electronic ID verification and completing the SDLT application. You could give details about services that you are able to provide at an additional cost and how much it might be.
“You should also make it clear that the estimate on the website may differ from clients’ individual circumstances and give examples of other disbursements that may be applicable. For example, if the fixed fee on your website is based on a freehold purchase, you should make it clear if you charge more for a leasehold property.
“Explaining the factors that may change the final cost may help to avoid misunderstandings and cost related complaints. It might be helpful to explain what circumstances may increase the cost and that they may only be discovered as the matter progresses and therefore might not be known at the outset. The reason for any changes to the cost will need to be clearly explained and agreed by the client.”
Legal service providers will now need to ensure that they provide a clear description of the services they provide. The information should include the stages of the service, estimated timescales and the staff mix involved in the service; including their experience and qualifications.
The CLC claim: “Consumers like to know who will be looking after their case. Whilst some are happy for a team of people to work on their case, others prefer dealing with a single fee earner.
“You might not be able to say exactly who will carry out the work on your website but you could provide a general description of your team(s) or the individuals, including their legal qualifications and relevant experience.
“Many CLC Practices already have a ‘meet the team’ page on their website that shows the members of staff or fee earners, whether they are qualified, for example, as a Licensed Conveyancer or Solicitor, how long they have been working in conveyancing or probate and their time at the practice.”
To adhere with regulatory information a firm must highlight that they are regulated by the CLC, including your practice licence number. Displaying the CLC secure badge in a prominent place is also important. Having clear complaints and redress information is also a regulatory requirement. Each website will need clear guidance on a firm’s complaints process and access to the LeO. Highlight the possibility of applying for a grant of the CLC compensation fund.
Overall, the CLC have laid out clear guidance with some pricing templates. They do insist that compliance with the guidance is a minimum requirement and there is a lot more that a firm could do to set themselves apart from the competition. Firms that embrace technology and adapt their website’s use of additional services, like a pricing calculator, could seem to have the edge in the competitive legal market where consumers are increasingly shopping outside business hours.
Is this guidance thorough enough for CLC members? Will this lead to improved competition and more awareness for consumers? Are you ready for the new reforms?