A guide to complaints handling in relation to consumers at risk of vulnerability has been published today by the Consumer Panel of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.
Marking Consumer Rights Day, the new document, for legal professionals and regulators, the guide builds on the panel’s previous publication on the internationally recognised consumer principles, and is designed to help practitioners and regulatory bodies apply those principles when designing services to meet the needs of consumers at risk of vulnerability.
It discusses how to define vulnerability, how to identify vulnerable risk factors, and the different and varying degrees of vulnerability, and explores the significance of the power imbalance between practitioner and client.
Finally, it poses questions for regulators, firms and service providers, and the SLCC and other complaint handling bodies.
Carol Brennan, chair of the Consumer Panel, commented: "On Consumer Rights Day last year we published a guide for legal professionals and regulators which was designed to support the sector in considering the application of the international consumer principles.
"Working from that guide, the panel became increasingly aware of the difficulties faced by consumers of legal services who are at risk of vulnerability.
"In putting this guide together, we hope that it will stimulate organisations to consider how they can provide more effective services for consumers who are at risk of vulnerability in relation to legal services in Scotland."
She explained: "This may involve training for staff, raising awareness of complaint handling systems, and ensuring ease of access to, and use of, those systems. It also includes providing effective information and communication systems, including clear and transparent websites.
"We hope that this publication will be the start of a conversation with stakeholders about consumers at risk of vulnerability when making complaints about legal services, and we welcome views and suggestions."