Simplify Group could face “official inquiry” and legal action
Two leading MPs have called for an official investigation into a cyber attack on conveyancing platform, Simplify Group, as home movers, conveyancers and agents remain at a standstill.
MPs Bob Blackman and Brendan Clarke said that an official inquiry and “some sort of compensation” should be issued to customers over the attack which resulted in Simplify’s IT system being taken offline, leaving many of its customers and partners without transaction updates and unable to complete.
Legal action is now being considered as reports suggest that law firm Keller Lenkner UK plans to lead a claim against Simplify for delays and potential data breaches that have affected leading conveyancers including DC Law and Premier Property Lawyers.
Many customers have now taken to social media to vent frustrations in Facebook groups such as “When Conveyancing goes Rogue”, created purely to discuss the Simplify IT disaster. With over 1.5k members, some group members are now calling for files to be “distributed to reputable solicitors to get the exchanges and completions done”.
Following the rise of online frustrations from angry Simplify customers, Blackman and Clarke, speaking to the Sunday Express said that they were disappointed by the company’s response to the IT failure, and said that an investigation by parliament into how the company’s IT system came to be compromised so badly, and what steps should be taken to stop it happening again, would be welcome.
Blackman, a member of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities select committee commented:
“Whilst [Simplify] are working around the clock to restore their systems, we have heard numerous stories of home buyers not being able to complete or exchange. Indeed we have heard several stories of people having to sleep in their cars as they had to leave their old house and had not been able to complete on their new home.
I would certainly welcome an investigation by [the] committee to investigate how this happened and what steps are been taken to prevent such an incident from happening again.
Whilst it remains down to [Simplify] how they handle the situation, I would welcome any efforts to offer some sort of compensation.”
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities select committee commented that:
“We expect Simplify Group to take all necessary steps to minimise the impact on customers of this cyber attack.”
The Simplify Group said that it is not aware of any personal information being compromised by the attack and that it regretted any uncertainty and disruption that it may have caused.
“An ever-growing proportion of our conveyancing colleagues are back up and running on core systems and progressing transactions. We continue to prioritise the most urgent cases, and are working with clients to help them move forward towards exchange and completion.
Our team, supported by external experts, are working non-stop to get the remainder of our systems safely back up and running, with progress being made every day”, it said in its most recent statement.
But Simplify customers disagree, with many taking to social media to complain that they have been left without updates from Simplify or their conveyancing firm. “I just do not understand why someone cannot give us a general update on how many they have completed on and how others are progressing” said one member of the Facebook group “When Conveyancing goes Rogue”.
As a result of the chaos caused by Simplify’s IT outage, many customers are now calling for a ban on referral fees. A petition to scrap referrals started by Julie Close, an employee at a conveyancing firm, now has almost 500 signatures, and continues to rise daily since it launched last weekend.
The petition states that the payment of referral fees to estate agents, “is not in the best interest of the public” and “denies the consumer choice [and] allows for an environment where estate agents can apply pressure or manipulation to use the ‘pet’ conveyancer”.
“Often there is no transparency and full disclosure that a referral fee is involved and the amount being paid. The payment of referral fees to gain conveyancing business denies investment into improving systems, training and delivery of quality services.
Instructions should be gained by delivery of a quality service, repeat business and recommendations from previous users. It will necessitate that the conveyancing companies to become more ‘client focused’ rather than looking at other opportunities to buy business,” it says.
The government has asked Simplify to keep monitoring the situation.