A simplified complaint levy policy, covering the circumstances in which the standard levymay be reduced, has been introduced by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

The SLCC applies a £3,500 levy where a complaint against a solicitor is unresolved prior to going before a determination committee at the SLCC for a final decision, and is upheld in whole or in part.

The complaint levy remains at £3,500, which was set in 2012 following consultation with the profession and public. The legislation allows committees to waive an element of the levy if they consider it appropriate to do so, and practice in this respect has grown up over several years.

Under the simplified policy a reduced levy of £1,500 may be applied, based on several factors. Some of these are:

  • Had the practitioner (lawyer or firm) followed their own complaint handling procedures and adhered to accepted best practice including the SLCC’s guidance?
  • How thorough, complete and prompt were the practitioner's (or firm's) own investigation, and their responses to the SLCC?
  • Had the complainer been signposted to the SLCC?
  • Did the practitioner accept any failure in their service and offer a reasonable settlement?
  • Were any new matters raised by the practitioner or firm at a later stage than they could have been?

The committee will also have regard to whether the levy should be charged to a firm or an individual. It may decide against a reduced levy if there was a substantial failing or a substantial award is amde to the complainer; and may have regard to any complaints upheld within the previous two years.

A nominal levy of £500 can be imposed where the committee considers the inadequate professional service to be very minor.

In addition, the committee will have discretion to waive some or all of the levy in exceptional circumstances.

The policy will apply to complaints upheld or part upheld by a determination committee from today (1 October 2018) onwards.

Neil Stevenson, SLCC chief executive, commented: "This simpler levy should bring greater clarity to firms and lawyers. It also reaffirms that there’s a real benefit for firms in following our guidance on complaint handling. Having complaint handling procedures in place and following them can make a significant difference. We’re also still recognising when a firm has engaged with our process.

"It’s worth stressing that this policy will only apply to complaints which have been upheld or part upheld by our determination committee. While we recognise that all firms may face complaints from time to time, it’s right that where an issue is upheld there is some meaningful contribution to the costs of that complaint, to minimise what is passed on to the profession as a whole."

Click here to view the new policy.

  • The SLCC has appointed Anderson Strathern, Brodies, and Harper Macleod to its advisory and litigation panel from 1 October 2018 for the next three years (with a one year extension possible), following a competitive tender process run through the Public Contracts Scotland portal.