A YouGov survey commissioned by the Legal Services Consumer Panel shows signs that consumer power is starting to take a grip in the legal services market. More consumers are shopping around and demanding fixed-fee deals. However, there has been a knock in confidence in the sector.
This is the second year that the survey has been carried out.
There has been an increase in the percentage of consumers who shop around. 22% of respondents said that they shopped around for their legal services, an increase from 19% in 2011. 57% said they found it easy to compare legal service providers, an increase of 6% since last year. 58% of private-paying consumers had a fixed-fee deal.
The percentage of consumers who were satisfied that they had received value for money from their legal services provider rose from 56% in 2011 to 59% in 2012. However, satisfaction with customer service fell. 70% of consumers felt that they were treated as an individual and not just another file, a fall of 5% over the last year.
Trust in lawyers has fallen from 47% to 43%, although this can be considerably lower among some ethnic groups. Respondents were also less confident that their consumer rights will be protected when using lawyers. 49% said they were confident their consumer rights will be protected, a fall of 2%.
Respondents who were unsatisfied were both reported to be more likely to do nothing or make a formal complaint. 42% of respondents would do nothing, a rise from 35% in 2011. 21% of those asked in 2012 would make a formal complaint, up from 13% last year.
The number of people using legal services has fallen. The percentage of respondents who used at least one legal service in the previous two years fell from 31% in 2011 to 27%.
Elisabeth Davies, Chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel commented:
“It’s good to see signs of consumers starting to use their buying muscle, although this needs to be just the beginning of a major power shift. Consumers clearly want fixed-fee deals, especially in tough times — and increasingly they are shopping around to get better value for money.
“It’s concerning that service standards are slipping, yet more and more dissatisfied consumers do nothing about the treatment they’ve received. The difficult economic climate is no excuse for lawyers to cut corners, but there also a need for regulators to make it easier for consumers who get a poor service to raise their concerns with providers.”
Those in the conveyancing sector have seen the fixed-fee become the standard over recent years, forcing legal costs down. As the economic situation remains difficult with the double dip recession, it is unlikely that this will change, and legal service providers may need to find other ways of differentiating themselves from the competition as consumers will shop around for the best deals.
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