SLCC complaints levy policy - changes to internal guidance
The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) has updated its internal guidance which will apply to the determination of all complaints that go to Determination Committees from 1 September 2016.
According to the SLCC, while there is no change to the maximum amount of Complaints Levy that can be imposed, the update is intended to assist with another small step towards a 'polluter pays' approach.
The SLCC have said:
‘The Complaints Levy that may be imposed remains within the existing tariff range (Nil to £3,500) which we have previously consulted on.
We have introduced a NIL band (replacing a £0 to £750 band), which means the Determination Committee will now normally not impose any Complaints Levy in respect of complaints where the practitioner has agreed to the settlement proposals (in the Investigation Report) and the Committee does not uphold any additional or different issues, or does not award higher compensation or direct a more severe abatement of fees, or does not make any additional directions to what was recommended in the Investigation Report.
This band would also be used where the practitioner had, before the Investigation stage, already made an equal or higher offer than the subsequently proposed settlement.
Despite the above, the Commission may still impose a Complaints Levy where the Committee is dissatisfied with the approach and behaviour of the practitioner. The factors covering such exceptions are set out in paragraph 6.3 (i) to (iv) of the Policy, to which there are no changes.
Amendments to reflect the Nil band of the tariff and the exceptions to that Nil band have also been made to paragraphs 5.2, 5.4 and 6.6..
There is a 'knock-on' effect to the tariff bands by having a Nil band. This results in the subsequent bands now being (from 1 September 2016), £750 - £1,500 (same as before), £1,500 - £2,250 (previously £1,500 - £2,000), then £2,250 - £3,500 (previously £2,000 -£3,500).
The tariff band table has also been inverted within the amended Policy to show 'highest to lowest'.
The amended Policy includes some reworked examples given in paragraph 6.5, subparagraphs (a), (b) and (c) to take account of the amendments.
The reasons for these changes are because under the existing guidance Committee's would sometimes impose a fairly nominal Complaints Levy, say of between £50 to £250.
This is often uneconomic to invoice, pursue, and collect, on some occasions costing more to the SLCC in administration costs than is recovered.
Where a practitioner accepts a settlement, and the complainer does not, the lawyer will benefit from the new Nil band. However, where they do not accept settlement, and the issue is upheld, they may now pay a little more.
This change will assist the Commission to uphold its policy that 'the polluter should pay', thus helping to apply downward pressure on Annual Levy rises for all practitioners.’