Consumers could face increased costs due to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s proposed budget for 2019-20, the Law Society of Scotland has warned.
The Society was giving its initial reaction to the SLCC's proposed rises in the annual levy paid by practising lawyers, which would average 9.2% for the year from 1 July. It comes on the back of a series of double digit percentage rises over recent years.
However the SLCC's main proposal would see principals in private practice facing a much larger rise, from £386 to £494, while other lawyers would pay a standstill rate, as the SLCC attempts to pinpoint the sectors that generate the most complaints. (Click here for report.)
Society President Alison Atack commented: "It is the most vulnerable people in society who rely most on legal services, often at times of difficulty and distress. This latest fee increase will mean consumers in Scotland will bear even higher costs, with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission costing almost 40% more than it did four years ago. Many firms could end up paying four times as much as originally proposed when the SLCC was conceived [a rate of £120 was predicted].
"There are a number of reforms which could be made to the legal complaints system, to make it quicker and more efficient. We have been working with the SLCC on these measures and hope the Scottish Government can prioritise time to progress the changes during this year. Whilst these improvements aim to create a better complaints process, they have potential to save money too, which would be much better news for consumers of legal services."
Ms Atack added that the Society would look at the draft budget carefully and consult with solicitors across Scotland before submitting a formal response to the consultation.
The Society has also pointed out that the SLCC's anticipated total income of £3.719m for the coming year would represent a 38% increase in costs compared to 2015-16.