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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Conveyancers may have to publish prices, services and reviews

As the process of making buying and selling more transparent continues to gather pace, the body that regulates conveyancers says it is to mandate firms to publish their service standards and prices online.

The Council for Licensed Conveyancers says this is to help consumers make informed choices when they need a lawyer, and to encourage CLC-regulated firms to use the transparency drive to differentiate themselves better and attract clients.

It says this could include opening up to third-party feedback platforms and price comparison websites, but their use will not be made mandatory.

Last autumn the CLC issued a consultation entitled Helping Consumers Choose their Lawyer - Service, Quality and Price Transparency. 

This proposed steps to implement the recommendations of the Competition and Markets Authority’s 2016 report that found a lack of transparency was hindering competition in the legal market.

The CLC has now launched a new consultation on the regulatory changes required to effect some of its reforms. It says that subject to approval by the Legal Services Board, the new rules should be in place by the end of 2018.

CLC-regulated firms are currently required to provide cost, service and regulatory information at the point they are instructed; in future, they will be required to make cost information, including whether they have referral arrangements, readily accessible on their website and in alternative formats on request. 

How this is presented will not be prescribed, but the CLC will publish best practice guidance along with cost estimate templates to ensure quotes are comprehensive and comparable.

The consultation also suggests that CLC firms consider providing an instant online quote generator on its website or on a third-party website. Recent research sponsored by the CLC found that online quote generators can help secure more clients.

However, the CLC is urging firms to focus on promoting the features and quality of their services rather than simply price as this “will increase the opportunity for CLC practices to differentiate themselves from competitors and appeal to clients on grounds other than just price”.

In detail, the consultation recommends that CLC-regulated firms consider stating upfront and online information about the staff mix and their qualifications, the mode of delivering the service (for example, face-to-face or online) along with the company’s specific areas of expertise and typical client profile (for example, first time buyers).

It also suggests that its regulated companies consider including feedback from clients on third-party platforms like Trustpilot and Feefo.

“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” says CLC chair Dame Janet Paraskeva.

“We believe there is a real opportunity for those that focus on service quality – research repeatedly shows that home movers do not simply choose a conveyancer on price, but they need to know, and quickly, why they should go with a particular firm. Some CLC regulated firms are already finding new and better ways to do this.

“Firms will need to give a lot of thought to how to present this information and turn these challenges into the opportunity we know they are.”

The consultation closes on June 29 and you can see what it says here.

Poll: Should conveyancers publish upfront prices, service details and reviews?

PLACE YOUR VOTE BELOW

  • Peter Ambrose

    Obviously we find this laudable but sadly it is obvious that it will be ignored and the guidelines flouted by the same people that are already misleading the public through salami slicing pricing and small print trickery.
    Will these so-called quote engines that are frequently found on the dark-webesque corners of the conveyancing internet honestly show the size of the bribes that they are receiving.
    These organisations are not regulated by the CLC and can continue to mislead consumers with impunity.
    Just a small point - what about all those SRA regulated solicitors that are out there paying bribes to panel managers - they seem to have avoided this attempt at scrutiny.

  • Matt Faizey

    Once the gates open with public reviews those that move first will have an advantage.

    It doesn't take long at all before the public looks at maybe 3 prospectives and says 'well those two have reviews, and the last one doesn't'.

    So they ignore the last one.

    Then, it is often which of the two left have the most favourable reviews that'll determine which gets the first enquiry from the person looking.

    There has to be a 'first to do it'. Ultimately it will force standards, and conduct higher. Happened in my sector around 8-12 years ago, and on a lesser scale has happened with EA's already.

    (And happens on social media broadly out of mainstream sight everyday, everywhere)

    The real scare for conveyancers and solicitors will be that the end result will highlight exactly what good, and bad service REALLY is, decided by the people that truly matter, the customers.

    It's been too long coming

  • icon

    If you could see as I do every single day at work, you would be horrified with the quality of conveyancing out there. I face it day in day out. The most depressing moment is when you call another conveyancer, and their voice and manner make you worried for the legal work they just gave their own client.

    Or the legal defects/issues you can see, but which the other conveyancer does not spot - and you feel so bad for their client. THEIR client ...each time.

    Conveyancing is being run into the ground as no one has a clue / a willingness to fix the single biggest issue that is wrong with it - the quality of the actual person handling the legal work.

    Standards are the lowest in 20+years. Worst in my career. Bad enough we have volume outfits blurring the 'goods v service' distinction, piling it high by bunging eye-wateringly high amounts of cash to purchase the public's conveyancing, but the poor service standards are creeping throughout the industry. Is it in competition with that model, so you feel you have to employ cheap, promise to train up in-house, but then you never do. Is it lack of career opportunities, so conveyancers have no real drive to be the best they can? Is it the lack of any regular exam to maintain standards?

    But unless you are a conscientious conveyancer doing the job, you just don't know how to fix it. You will end up pushing a 'theory plaster' our way. Non-conveyancers can jump in and suggest things, but just ask the conveyancers - how are conveyancers failing the public, and what can be done to change each one.

    Improvements to the quality of the actual human conveyancers would raise the standard of the actual conveyancer, and thus pace, communication, accuracy etc......the entire failing list I just mentioned.

    Problem is, conveyancing is s service, not a good (i.e not a tin of Heinz beans which multiple suppliers can offer albeit at different prices.) But vast numbers of people just can't see that.

    Conveyancing is unique to each law firm, as is the individual house sale or purchase being handled.

    Disrespecting the public into law firms having to offer a one size fits all price approach is not a solution to anything that is wrong with conveyancing, as all that will do is flag up 'price' as some how relevant, to securing quality conveyancing, and will suggest to the public - who already telephone and say how much' is conveyancing as they do not know what else to ask as conveyancing is foreign to them - that price really is the only factor between law firms=, so go with the cheapest. Yikes!!

    Instead, not one member of the public ever asks, "do you have Lexcel accreditation," or "will my lawyer have an actual law degree".....and profiteering law firms know the public don't, and tomorrow, a solicitor firm could badge their office cleaner as a conveyancer and set them to work - there is no regulation stopping it.

    Focus on the quality of the human person doing the legal work - then the conveyancing process flies, as you weed out mediocre, you raise expertise and therefore confidence, and therefore pace, accuracy, and communication.

    Everyone wins.

    Sadly, Google the above solution/idea - no one is talking about doing it. Instead, just more IT software nonsense (when conveyancers are already so bad at using the fastest IT communication tool in the world - email) and e'conveyancing (at a time when identity fraud is sky high!?).

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