Regulatory intervention will be essential to ensuring that legal service providers publish prices and improve customer services, says watchdog

By Lee Dixon In Legal News

The Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) has responded to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) interim report by citing a ‘chronically weak demand side’ that is preventing greater levels of competition within the legal sector.

The Legal Services Consumer Panel has become the latest body to offer its thoughts on the state of the legal profession in light of the CMA’s interim report.

Chair of the LSCP, Elisabeth Davies, stated:

Providers of legal services are not responding quickly enough to consumers’ need for transparency and predictability, particularly around key choice factors for example price and quality.”

She goes on to say that regulatory intervention is needed to “redress the current imbalanced and apportion risk between providers and consumers fairly.”

The publishing of the LSCP’s comments on trade news sites such as the Law Gazette provoked a significant and heated response from both sides of the argument, with forums showcasing a range of strong opinions on the issue.

While some legal service providers expressed dismay at being spoken about in the same breath as insurers and dentists in regard to publishing prices for commoditised work, many others believe that there is a real need to force the hand of firms in the best interests of consumers.

It is the panel’s assertion that without intervention there will be little incentive for firms to change their practices and deliver the necessary transparency and that consumers will continue to risk uncertainty and fear the high legal costs that the profession has developed a reputation for – whether fair or not.

The Law Superstore’s CEO, Matthew Briggs, agreed with this assessment and affirmed that in its own research, the industry’s first real-time comparison website had encountered a genuine aversion to hiring legal professionals as a result of this uncertainty.

“In the process of developing The Law Superstore we have carried out our own studies into the key factors that determine the relationship between legal service providers and their clients. It has become abundantly clear that both individuals and businesses are being turned off the idea of seeking legal support because they fear high prices. Instead they look to DIY solutions, or even ignore legal issues altogether.

“Whether firms like to admit it or not, they are dealing with ‘customers’ who have certain expectations of them as service providers. There is no doubt that the law is distinct and different from any other industry or sector, but if they wish to attract new business they need to understand and cater for these expectations.

“Publishing prices where it is possible and sensible to do so is just one of the factors that we believe needs addressing. Offering transparency in other ways is equally as important – such as making client reviews available."

The LSCP continues that for cases where fixed fee pricing is not feasible, it is a firm’s responsibility to provide average costs for the services they provide on their website to give clients an opportunity to judge value for money themselves.

However, Matthew Briggs believes that The Law Superstore offers another more appealing solution to legal service providers.

“The Law Superstore not only makes it much easier for firms to distill the most relevant information into an easy-to-digest format for the client, it also provides a scope of work for each service to make pricing more straightforward. 

In addition, The Law Superstore will serve to complement a firm’s own digital presence as a new marketing channel. While for those legal businesses without a pre-existing web presence, this represents an opportunity to gain a foothold online and advertise services completely free.”

If you'd like to become a Partner of The Law Superstore, visit our site and register today

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