Scottish legal services in the dockWhich? launches super-complaint

08 May 2007

 

Scales of justice

Which? has launched a super-complaint about the regulation of legal services in Scotland which states the current system is failing consumers. 

Current regulations place strict controls on how legal professionals in Scotland are allowed to practice and how consumers can access legal representation.

Which? believes that this structure hinders market innovation, restricts consumer choice and may lead to higher prices.

We're calling for deregulation of the market in order to improve the services available to consumers.

Market deregulation

Current restrictions prevent consumers from instructing advocates directly, solicitors working with advocates, advocates working together with other advocates and in general lawyers from working alongside non-lawyers to offer other services to their clients.

Deregulation would allow conveyancers, mortgage advisers, surveyors and estate agents to work together to deliver packages of legal and other services, which would result in greater convenience and less cost to consumers.

Which? principal public affairs officer Julia Clarke said: ‘People should be able to access legal services from a range of organisations, not just traditional law firms. This should lead to improved standards of customer service and greater efficiency, improving price and quality for consumers.

‘Although most of the restrictions can be removed straight away, deregulation will require the introduction of new legislation to ensure that people are not left vulnerable to unscrupulous practices. Also, regulation of solicitors and advocates needs to be overseen by an independent body to ensure that regulators put consumer interest first.’

Super-complaint

Which? has legal powers enabling it to file super-complaints with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

A super-complaint allows designated consumer bodies to complain to the OFT and specific sectoral regulators about market features that may be significantly harming consumers' interests.