Only 25% Of Law Firms Are Price And Service Transparent
We are six months into the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) regulated changes to the way law firms share their price and service, yet only a quarter of regulated firms are fully compliant with the standards.
Worse still, One-in-five regulated law firms have failed to make any effort to comply with price and service regulations.
The SRA reviewed a sample of 500 firms’ websites to ascertain how many firms were embracing the standards and regulations which came into force in December 2018.
Of the 447 firms who had a functioning website, 78 law firms (17%) were failing to comply with any of the price and service transparency regulations. The SRA is in contact with those concerned and has offered these law firms two months to rectify their regulatory mistakes.
During the monitoring process, the firms will be involved in mystery web sweeps at least twice a year and possible enforcement action will follow future non-compliance.
Despite the regulations being 6 months old, only 25% of firms were fully compliant with the regulations that were brought in to offer consumers greater choice.
Whilst more than half of the observed law firms (58%) were partially complying with regulatory changes, there are a number of areas consistently being overlooked.
52% of partially compliant firms had failed to clearly display their complaints information. Although many firms were beginning to make their prices transparent, information concerning the amount of VAT applied to costs was not disclosed to the consumer in too many cases.
Additionally, law firms still remain secretive on the costs involved with obvious disbursements routinely used in many areas of law like third-party payments made to the Land Registry or court fees.
Brian Rogers, Regulatory Director & Head of Content & Thought Leadership at Rilliance, commented:
“The SRA’s recently published data showing 1 in 5 firms being non-compliant with the Transparency Rules shows there has been an improvement in compliance levels since they were introduced in December 2018, however, it clearly shows that many firms still have work to do.
“It has been suggested that the rules as they stand will not achieve the Competition & Markets Authority’s aim of allowing consumers to compare prices as the current rules allow so much flexibility, for example, can consumers really compare prices when they are not being presented with a single fee figure but are given a range of fees or an average?
“It is likely that if the current rules don’t work they will become more prescriptive, but this goes against the SRA’s aim of moving away from prescriptive regulation; only time will tell where we go next!”
Anna Bradley, SRA Chair, said:
“Most people struggle to access legal services, and even when they do, they find it tough to shop around. Our new rules aim to give people a fighting chance of understanding up-front the costs of different law firms, and what they will get for their money.
“It’s obviously a mixed picture. We could see that most firms were genuinely trying to comply, but there is no excuse for those who have done nothing. If they don’t get their website in order promptly, then we will need to consider enforcement action.”
Has your firm worked hard to comply with regulatory changes to price and service? Have you struggled to comply with any of the changes? Do you think action needs to be swifter and harsher when dealing with non-compliance?