Licensed conveyancers forced into online price publication

(lawsiteblog)

Conveyancers will be required to publish their service standards and prices online, a niche regulator has confirmed. The Council for Licensed Conveyancers today announced it will mandate that firms increase the information they put in the public domain as part of a push to improve transparency and consumer choice.

The decision comes as the Solicitors Regulation Authority ponders whether to impose similar requirements on law firms after competition watchdogs highlighted what they said are gaps in public understanding about pricing in the legal sector.

The CLC, which consulted on how to improve consumer choice last year, will also encourage its firms to go beyond minimum requirements to differentiate themselves better. This could include opening data to third-party feedback platforms and price comparison websites, although this will not be mandatory.

A further consultation on the details of the reporting requirements begins today and reforms are expected to be in place, subject to approval by the Legal Services Board, by the end of this year.

CLC firms will have to make cost information, including any referral arrangements in place, readily accessible on their website and in alternative formats on request. Best practice guidance, along with cost estimate templates, will be provided to ensure quotes are comprehensive and comparable.

Dame Janet Paraskeva

Firms will be monitored to ensure they comply with the new rules and further assessments will be made of the new approaches to ensure they are beneficial.

CLC chair Dame Janet Paraskeva said: ‘The firms we regulate will be facing new requirements and we expect them to be open and transparent. But we do not want to be overly prescriptive in how they can take advantage of this new era of transparency – we are looking to firms to find their own approaches which fit best with their business models and styles of service.’

The SRA has made clear that it favours mandating firms to publish prices online and has suggested this could start for certain types of work, such as conveyancing, wills and personal injury. Solid proposals are due to be published imminently.

The regulators’ push to increase transparency comes following the recommendations of the Competition and Markets Authority, which found consumers needed more information about pricing following a year-long study of the legal sector

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