UK law firms must display prices for clients, report states
16th Dec 2016
Lawyers must display their prices clearly so customers know what they will pay, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said in a report on legal services in the UK.
Under 17% of solicitors’ firms and other legal providers publish a price list online, the report notes, leaving many clients unaware of t the costs they are likely to incur for even straightforward requests like making wills or dealing with court cases.
The study states that “Consumers find it hard to make informed choices because there is very little transparency about price, service and quality. This lack of transparency weakens competition between providers and means that some consumers do not obtain legal advice when they would benefit from it. Increasing transparency of price, service and quality is therefore essential for consumers to get a better deal.”
“Regulators [should] develop new minimum standards for disclosures of price, service, redress and regulatory status, and require providers to adhere to them,” the report continued.
Lawyers have traditionally charged by the hour, although such practices are gradually being replaced by fixed pricing deals. “While not all services may be amenable to a fixed price,” the CMA report says, “our analysis indicates that much more could be done to aid comparability.”
The price of a standard simple will ranges from around £110 to £200, the report notes; the price for a complex divorce with a dispute over assets may vary from around £1,260 to £3,000.
The CMA suggests developing comparison websites to allow customers to assess providers. It also recommends that the Ministry of Justice investigate whether to extend protection from existing redress schemes to customers using unauthorised providers.
Around £11-12bn a year is spent by consumers on legal services in England and Wales in areas such as commercial law, employment law, family law, conveyancing, wills and probate.