Society calls for specific market study into Conveyancing

The Society of Licensed Conveyancers (SLC) welcomes the intent of Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to providing greater transparency for consumers to assist in their selection of legal services providers

However, the SLC is concerned at some of the findings of the CMA study. In particular, the Society is concerned that Conveyancing is bracketed as a commoditised area of law and that, therefore, it should be relatively easy to implement changes to provide transparency on fees and quality of service.

The Chairman of the SLC Simon Law stated “it is of concern to the members of the SLC that the CMA appears to believe that conveyancing is a commoditised market. We are concerned that a ‘one size fits all’ approach would not provide consumers with the breadth of information required to make an informed buying decision. It also has the potential to act as a barrier to innovation and growth, by the conveyancing profession. It must be noted that all Licensed Conveyancers are required by their regulator (the Council for Licensed Conveyancers) to provide clients with fixed quotation prior to instruction, ensuring there is a complete transparency for their clients.

As conveyancers, we are constantly informed from third party research and surveys that consumers do not pick their conveyancer on price alone. In this context, the use of websites that are primarily based on price comparison would not appear to be fit for purpose. Conveyancing is a very competitive market place and if simple price transparency was fundamental to increasing market share then such comparison websites would have been introduced a long time ago.” Law added

The SLC points out that the Conveyancing sector is regulated by three different organisations and unless they all adopt the same approach and rules in implementing the CMA report recommendations, an uneven competitive playing field may result for Solicitors, Licensed Conveyancers and Legal Executives. This is surely counter-intuitive to the objectives of the CMA.

There are a wide variety of styles and structures of legal practices that provide conveyancing services, but in very different ways to different sections of the market.  Some firms will be heavily IT based delivering services to IT literate customers and other firms will provide a more traditional face to face offering to a totally different type of client. These extremes of service will operate on very different cost models. The market and client choice will dictate the type of service the customer wishes to instruct and it will be difficult for websites to offer a fair comparison taking into account the way each firm delivers its service.

Simon Law commented “There are many firms that offer a personalised faced to face service but also a large number of firms who offer a technology based service. Any publication of customer satisfaction results would need to take this into account. Of particular concern, would be the publishing of complaints. Whilst we would broadly support the publishing of LEO complaints as a percentage of the number of cases completed, more detailed reporting of complaints would add unnecessary burdens upon conveyancers and ultimately drive up costs for consumers.”

This article was submitted to be published by The Society of Licensed Conveyancers as part of their advertising agreement with Today’s Conveyancer. The views expressed in this article are those of the submitter and not those of Today’s Conveyancer.

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