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Law Society rejects calls for ‘misleading’ price publication

Narrow focus on price could potentially damage clients' ability to make informed choices, says Chancery Lane

25 August 2016

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The Law Society has rejected calls from the Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) for firms to publish the average cost of services as the debate around the future of legal services intensifies.

In response to the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) interim report on the sector, the LSCP argued for regulatory intervention to ensure information about average fees and quality of service is published.

'The proposal there should be regulatory requirements specifying what firms should publish is misconceived,' said Law Society chief executive, Catherine Dixon.

'A narrow focus on price - especially average price which could be particularly misleading - is potentially damaging to clients' ability to make informed choices. Publishing average prices in areas of work where there are multiple variables affecting the actual costs would be confusing and, in many cases, meaningless - the opposite of what the LSCP intends.'

This week, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) said forcing new market entrants to publish fixed cost offers could disadvantage inexperienced lawyers.

In an interview with Solicitors Journal last month, the Legal Services Board's (LSB) chief executive, Neil Buckley, also warned of how being forced to publish fees could result in 'misleading' information about the price of services and ultimately, cause higher prices.

Chancery Lane's latest intervention reiterated its stance for a sector driven by market changes, not regulation, after publishing its own response to the CMA last week.

'We are confident that the legal services market, which is very competitive, will deliver ever more beneficial and durable improvements than further regulation, which would also create the risk of unintended consequences,' said Dixon.

The Law Society's fears over increased regulation were compounded when the CMA stated it was 'open to more fundamental change of the regulatory framework,' however, it did concede increased regulation carried risks.

The LSB has also called for regulatory reform alongside 'well-designed market transparency measures' to increase market competition.

Matthew Rogers is a legal reporter at Solicitors Journal @sportslawmatt matthew.rogers@solicitorsjournal.co.uk

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Company, Consumer, and Contract