Moving towards transparency
The closure of another regulator’s consultation signals the start of a shift in the legal sector.
Issued by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, the consultation was in response the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) report which asked regulators to ‘deliver a step change in standards of transparency to help consumers (i) understand the price and service they will receive, what redress is available and the regulatory status of their provider and (ii) compare providers’.
Set to be assessed by the CMA and Legal Services Board, the CLC published Action Plans in response to these recommendations, stating that it is eager to take steps which empower the consumer and foster competition.
In addition to the actions it plans to take, it also highlighted the role of private sector businesses, which it anticipates will grow to provide solutions for improving the comparability of price and services across the legal sector.
In the Action Plan itself, the CLC set out a number of steps its planning on and is already starting to take.
- Price and Service
- Regulatory status and redress
- Use of independent feedback platforms
- Helping consumer navigate legal services
- Data for intermediaries
Supporting the suggestions raised by the CMA report, the aim of these steps is to reduce the existing barriers surrounding legal services which consumers currently face.
This is particularly significant in the conveyancing and wills and probate areas of law – the areas which the CLC regulate. As these are the most commonly used legal services, the level of competition among providers tends to be high. In turn, this could suggest a potentially greater need for transparency in terms of both pricing and service information. Whilst this has generated some concerns from firms which charge fees at the higher end of the scale, the potential solution to this issue is also included in the CLC’s plans.
The regulator draws attention to the use of independent feedback platforms – one of the few ways in which providers can demonstrate their quality of service. It is these indicators of quality which will become important once firms are required to publish prices online. Of course, whilst price can go some way towards influencing consumer decision making, the standard of service being delivered is ultimately what the consumer is looking for in a legal provider.
As such, it is therefore up to the firm to justify the fees they charge, whether these be comparatively high or low. Consumers will be looking at any factors which signpost this standard of quality promised, both on the firm’s internal site as well as on third-party feedback sites. In this sense, reviews can play a key part in justifying the standard of service offered by a firm, further boosting competition within the sector.
The CLC state that they will be encouraging the use of independent feedback platforms as well as engaging with firms to ensure that they make the best use of them.