The Scottish Legal Complaints Commissions welcomes the Competition and Markets Review of Legal Services in England and Wales, and believes any findings will also impact the sector north of the border.
Commenting on the launch of the review Chief Executive, Neil Stevenson, said “We know from previous studies – such as the OFT report and the Clementi Review - that issues and proposed solutions are also likely to influence thinking in Scotland. Scottish responses have always had their own unique flavour, due to a different sector and set of issues, and different political thinking, but there is no doubt that any findings will have repercussions here in due course.”
“We’ll be closely monitoring the review, and would hope to engage our Consumer Panel and other bodies in the legal market in Scotland in discussion as to what we may be able to learn from the process and findings as soon as information is available. We want to ensure we lead the debate on what we might learn to improve the functioning the Scottish market, and on what might be less relevant because of the difference between the countries”
The Competition and Markets Review sets out three major themes – consumer access to information to aid decisions, whether there are consumer protection issues not currently addressed by regulation, and whether the framework is beyond what is required to protect consumers (and so distorts the market).
Mr Stevenson indicated these were themes covered in the new strategy for the SLCC, which will be going out to public consultation at the end of January:“We’ve been looking at the information available to consumers as in so many complaints differences in expectations are an issue. Most law firms now have websites but in contrast to many other sectors you don’t have regulation about what information must be provided to help consumers make a purchasing decision. The CMA’s review shows the need for a broader discussion about how regulation informs buying decisions and protects consumers, and remains light touch enough that there is economic sustainability for the sector – necessary for lawyers and consumers.“
“Our new strategy also suggests the need to consider streamlining regulation and complaints handling, even if that affects our own role, as lawyers need freed up where possible to spend as much time as they can working for their clients – something we know that lawyers want to be able to.”