Could Legal Services Be On Comparison Sites?

Whenever we’re searching for products, whether it be insurance, credit cards or new appliances, somehow, we always end up on comparison sites to get the best deal and to find out what other users think of the product or service.

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has floated the idea that law firms, chambers and other legal services providers could be forced to sign up to comparison websites enabling clients to inform other people about the service they received.

Another idea floated by the LSB could see providers internal complaints records being made public.

The LSB is considering these changes, as it awaits the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) review of the legal market, which is expected later this year.

In the previous report, published in December 2016, transparency was the key theme that the CMA focused on. One of the previous recommendations published in this report called for regulators “to promote the use of independent feedback platforms to help consumers understand the quality of service offered by competing providers.”

Transparency was achieved with regards to pricing, but other areas, the LSB believe are still lacking. Ahead of this next anticipated CMA review, the LSB and Ministry of Justice are seeing how effective the price transparency rules that came in to force in 2018 have been as a result of this.

The LSB explained:

“The core outcome we want to achieve is that consumers can easily access information on service quality to help them choose between providers.

“It is possible to envisage various ways this could be achieved. Customer feedback websites are one example, but the available evidence is that consumer usage remains low and law firms are still not embracing them.

“In its final market study report the CMA considered, but decided against, mandating use by providers of comparison websites, since it was keen to see how the comparison sector developed. However, it noted that the ‘apparent lack of willingness [by law firms] to engage with comparison platforms may inhibit their widespread use and subsequent regulatory action may be necessary’.

“Given the market has not developed as hoped, there may be merit in revisiting this proposal, which could help these services gain a critical mass of users.”

The LSB believe that there are different variations that legal service providers could adopt to cover the price comparison basis. These variations include sign posting clients to price comparison sites, without actively being involved on the site, or there may be a role for the Legal Choices website which is currently run by regulators.

The Legal Services Panel strongly support the second idea floated by the LSB which could see the regulator publishing first-tier complaints data which would name service providers. This data would act as a quality indicator for clients both old and new. The complaints published in this data set would be ones that firms have resolved without the involvement of the Legal Ombudsman.

Moving forward, the LSB said it wants to explore these ideas with the CMA and legal regulators before developing proposals.

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