Mandatory price publication backed by SRA
The SRA has confirmed its support for the publication of prices for firms in certain areas of law including conveyancing.
Stating that it had been persuaded to see the need for price transparency, the regulator responded to the Competition and Markets Authority study, mentioning the lack of accessible price information in the legal market. As a result, this was forming a barrier between services and consumer access.
In the response, the regulator advised on how it thought the market should proceed.
‘We think the best way forward would be to select a small number of areas of law in which to mandate price information being published on firms’ websites as a starting point.
‘If the firm does not have a website, we think it is sufficient for them to provide price information on request.’
According to the SRA, starting with a select number of firms will help clarify the process of price publication and test which system will work best.
In response to this, other areas are expected to act similarly by increasing price transparency and greater service clarification. However, the regulator stated that whether this will be applied to other areas of law is subject to review.
Conveyancing has been highlighted as an area where mandatory publication of price details are expected. In light of this, the response states that the regulator is working with the Council for Licensed Conveyancers in order to develop and online quote generator template. As well as promoting consistency in the profession, the SRA states that this could clarify the common criteria for price transparency on a wide scale. However, it is likely that the details of this will be consulted later in the year, being assessed by a number of other legal service regulators.
Also highlighted in the statement was the SRA’s awareness of the difficulties in pricing certain services. This can be the case where certain service aspects are not commoditised products. To reduce the risk of consumers being misled by pricing structures, the SRA stated that a range of opinions and views will be sought.
Commenting on the need to gather feedback from a range of different sources was Chief Executive, Paul Philip. He stated: ‘We need to continue having in-depth conversations with everyone, from law firms to consumer groups, to get this right. We want to make sure we strike a balance between making sure consumers have access to consistent, useful price information, while not over-burdening firms with over-restrictive rules.’