The Council of Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) has issued its response to the consultation paper by the Legal Ombudsman ‘Review of the scheme rules and case fee structure’. The consultation proposes an extension to the timeframe in which cases can be brought and an increase in the compensation limit. It also proposes a widening of the jurisdiction of the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) to include third parties.
The CLC agrees with both the extension to the timeframes and the compensation limit, but argues that the proposed broadening of the Legal Ombudsman’s jurisdiction is unjustified.
In its paper LeO argues that its jurisdiction needs to be widened to bring it into line with other Ombudsman schemes. If this proposal were approved, prospective clients would be able to bring complaints. The CLC believes that tangible evidence is needed to justify the proposed extension of scope, and also suggests that client confidentiality issues are of concern.
It is suggested that if the scope of LeO were to be extended, it should be limited to circumstances where a retainer exists, or where there is a specific duty of care.
In response to a question by LeO over whether there should be a list of specific categories of third parties who can complain to the Ombudsman, the CLC believes that this should not happen as there is no concept of an ‘indirect duty of care’. They argue that the lawyer either does, or does not, owe a duty of care. An example is given of a packaged remortgage service. It is stated that extending the jurisdiction of the Legal Ombudsman in this way would cause substantial confusion.
The proposed extensions to the timeframe in which cases can be brought to the Legal Ombudsman and the compensation limit are supported by the CLC. These changes would mean that complaints could be accepted up to six years from the event, or three years from the knowledge of the event. The compensation limit would be raised from £30,000 to £50,000.
It is preferred that the number of ‘free cases’ allowed per year be reduced or removed. The CLC argues that this would increase the simplicity of the scheme, and would also give an incentive for legal service providers to deal effectively with complaints.
The final point made by the CLC in its response is that it believes that there is a need to reduce the Legal Ombudsman’s costs, and a higher proportion of the costs should be obtained through case fees.
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