The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has welcomed a report calling for better consumer information about the price and quality of legal services.
Yesterday's report by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) (click here for news item) focused on the legal services market in England & Wales, but the CMA said it planned to use its findings to inform any future consideration of similar issues in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The report concluded that competition in legal services for individual consumers and small businesses is not working well, with insufficient information available on price, quality and service to help those who need legal support choose the best option. It called for a package of measures including compulsory display of imfomation on price, regulatory status and other matters by providers, and increased availability of comparison services.
SLCC chief executive Neil Stevenson commented: “This report focuses on England & Wales, and we recognise there are differences in those markets. However, as we said when the study was launched, we believe any findings could also have value for the legal sector in Scotland. The key themes identified have potential benefits for all. Price transparency and consumer information can help grow markets, creating a strong and sustainable legal sector in Scotland. This in turn provides jobs, supports businesses and citizens, and contributes to a just society. Equally, the findings assist consumers in a market which can at times appear complex and confusing.
"We also see the value of an independent review of the sector, with new and innovative thinking, and learning shared from other sectors, which can assist the bodies delivering regulation and consumer protection within a market. There is a current Scottish Government commitment to a consultation to review legal regulation, and this may be one technique that could be used as part of this important work."
He added: "Some of the themes, such as publishing regulatory and other data to help consumers compare lawyers, have already featured in our 2016-2020 strategy and our paper on legislative change. We were pleased to have been involved as a stakeholder in the study and are now looking forward to working with the CMA on helping Scottish consumers navigate the legal services sector and ensuring a thriving and sustainable legal services market.”
The report has also been welcomed by the Centre for Policy Studies, which earlier this year drew attention to the failure of corporate law firms to provide transparency to customers over the pricing of their services. The Centre's own report, which revealed that hourly rates for a partner at a top London firm now exceed £1,000, called for steps to ensure fair practice in legal procedure – particularly an investigation into uncompetitive practices in top corporate law.