UK: Firms face new rule to publish price information for all services

Legal Futures reports

Law firms regulated by CILEx Regulation (CRL) could become the first required to publish price and service information for all the legal services they provide to consumers and small businesses.

They may not be the last, however, as all the regulators look to comply with Legal Services Board (LSB) requirements to improve transparency.

CRL regulates 56 practices at the moment, of which 37 are firms of accountants that provide probate services, whose regulation it took over from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in 2022.

Its transparency rules – on publishing price and service information, as well as more general regulatory details – currently only apply to firms providing conveyancing, probate and immigration services.

But in a consultation that closes next week, CRL has proposed extending these requirements to all legal services for consumers and small businesses (defined as having up to 10 employees and a net turnover of less than £1m).

It said the expectation that even those firms not subject to the rules, introduced in 2019, “would recognise the business benefits” of adopting them has not happened.

The other legal regulators already require all firms to publish regulatory information, such as complaints procedures and insurance details, it noted.

When it came to price and service, meanwhile, CRL observed that neither the Competition and Markets Authority – whose 2016 report on the legal services market began the transparency push – nor the LSB’s April 2022 statement of policy on empowering consumers, distinguished between specific legal services.

The statement of policy appears to be the main driver; the LSB has given regulators until September to show they have taken sufficient action to implement it and could take enforcement action if they have not.

On price, the statement says: “Regulators are expected to put in place regulatory arrangements and undertake other appropriate activities to ensure the provision of useful information that best enables effective consumer choice about the price, or potential price, of the services offered by providers.”

The CRL consultation said evaluations carried out by both the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Bar Standards Board showed that increased transparency “appears to be enabling consumers to compare the prices and services of legal services providers”, while individual and SME consumers whose legal issue was not covered by the rules also wanted the information.

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