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Conveyancing Solicitors Must Publish Fees For Greater Transparency

The CMA (Competition & Markets Authority) believes consumers “find it hard to make informed choices because there is very little transparency about price, service and quality… This lack of transparency weakens competition between providers.” As from December 2018, conveyancing solicitors in England and Wales are legally obliged to publish their fees on their websites.

Until now, homeowners who move have had little chance to compare the prices of legal services. The CLC now require, including possible referral arrangements, readily accessible on their website and in alternative formats if required. It is up to firms to decide how they wish to achieve this. The CLC will publish best practice guidance along with cost estimate templates, to ensure quotes are comprehensive and comparable.

The new rules introduced by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), come into force on 6 December.

Here is a breakdown on what is required from conveyancing solicitors.

CLC Price & Service Transparency Rules Consultation

In December 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) Published its Legal Services Market Study. It highlighted that there were problems with price transparency and quality. It said that consumers did not have enough information before employing a lawyer.

The CMA made recommendations 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”.

An action plan was made and built in to the CMA’s business plan for 2018-2022. A timetable of implementation was made as follows:

  • Council approve rules July 2018
  • Application to Legal Services Board August 2018
  • Publication of Rules and Guidance September 2018
  • Rules and Guidance in force December 2018

What Are The Changes To The Regulatory Arrangements?

A high level summary of the decision of the Legal Services Board can be found here.

However, in short, CLC regulated firms must:

  1. Make clear information on costs on their websites
  2. Make clear on their websites standard information about:
    1. the services that they provide
    2. key stages in the delivery of those services; and
    3. indicative timescales
  3. Make clear on their websites standard information about:
    1. complaints procedures
    2. client protection arrangements
    3. regulatory status
  4. Consider the benefits and risks of third party feedback platforms and price comparison websites for them and their clients

Codes Of Conduct;

  • Display, on your website/communications and at their office premises, the practice license number.
  • Publish, in a prominent place on the firm’s website, cost information and to provide it by other reasonable means on request.
  • Publish, in a prominent place on their website, their complaints procedure, including how and when complaints may be made to the Legal Ombudsman.
  • Display, in a prominent place on their website, a digital badge that verifies that a firm is regulated by the CLC.

The amendments also remove the requirement for firms to publish the names of managers on all business communications, websites and the office premises.

Estimates & Terms Of Engagement Code

  • Provide clients with a description and cost of any disbursements likely to be incurred and to separately itemise Land Tax.
  • Provide clients with details about the experience and qualifications of the individual having day-to-day conduct of the matter.
  • Provide clients with a clear description of the services included in the cost and publish on your website.
  • Publish, in a prominent place on their website, information about the staff mix, their experience and qualifications.
  • Publish, in a prominent place on their website, the name of the individual to whom complaints should be made and the complaints procedure, including how and when to complain to the Legal Ombudsman.
  • Publish, in a prominent place on their website, their complaints procedure, including how and when complaints may be made to the Legal Ombudsman.

RE complaints:

  • The proposed amendments to the Complaints Code will require firms to publish, in a prominent place on their website, their complaints procedure, including how and when complaints may be made to the Legal Ombudsman.

Publishing Prices Under The New Transparency Rules.

CLC regulated firms are already required to provide a cost estimate to clients upon instruction. They are expected to make it simple for clients and prospective clients to find pricing information:

“CLC Practices will also be required to make Cost Information, including whether they have referral arrangements, readily accessible on their website.”

“Whilst not specifically required, CLC Practices may wish to consider providing an instant online quote generator on its website or on a third party website.”

“We believe that if a firm has a website, price information should be made available there, ideally through an estimate generator on their own website or through a DCT. Failing that, the firm will be required to publish a comprehensive price list of all of the factors that might impact the price of a transaction.”

If your firm does not have a website: “CLC Practices will also be required to make Cost Information, including whether they have referral arrangements, readily accessible …. in alternative formats on request (eg by email or post)”

Legal Services Affected By The Changes To The Regulatory Arrangements

A wide range of services are covered by the new SRA Transparency Rules. The CLC’s consultation only covers the legal services regulated by the CLC – conveyancing and probate.

Before you get quotes it’s helpful if you understand the selling/buying a home legal process so you can decide if the quotes you attain are exactly what you need.

Conveyancing Supermarket supply online conveyancing solicitor quotes fast and free. Our costs are FIXED FEE and include legal fees, disbursements and stamp duty land tax.

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