Law Society sued by training provider over anti-competitive CQS rule

Socrates Training Limited are seeking damages from the Law Society over claims Chancery Lane abused its position in specifying its own anti-money laundering training for the Conveyancing Quality Scheme must come from the Law Society itself.

According to the Claim, the Defendant and the Claimant both offer online anti-money laundering (“AML”) training for law firms on a commercial basis and also online training which helps property lawyers to avoid mortgage fraud and other financial crime.

The notice of a claim for damages under section 47a of the competition act read: “At some point, believed to be early in 2015, the Defendant started to require that as a condition of a law firm maintaining its CQS accreditation such a firm must buy both AML online training and mortgage fraud training from the Defendant.

“The Claimant alleges that the Defendant is dominant in the market for the provision of quality certification/accreditation services to conveyancing firms, and that the Defendant’s insistence that firms must buy their AML, mortgage fraud or other financial crime training from itself rather than from the Claimant or any other provider, is an abuse of its dominant position, restricting competition in the downstream market for the provision of AML and financial crime training and causing loss to the Claimant. According to the Claimant, the inclusion of a tying clause of this kind is specifically prohibited under applicable law as being anticompetitive.”

A Law Society spokesman dismissed the claim as “wholly without merit”.

Both parties will be filing and serving expert reports by 29th September, with a three or four day hearing scheduled for 7th November.

Socrates is seeking an injunction restraining the Law Society from:

  1. “continuing to abuse its dominant position.”
  2. “A declaration that the Defendant has abused its dominant position.”
  3. “A declaration that the tying clause is illegal and unenforceable.”
  4. “Damages.”
  5. “Interest.”
  6. “Costs.”
  7. “Such further or other relief as the Tribunal considers appropriate.”
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