The Legal Services Board has published a response to the submissions it received to its discussion paper on quality indicators. Published in February 2021, the paper prompted a wide-ranging debate over what quality means in the legal services market and how best to convey this to consumers. The response document concludes that there is still more to do to support people and small businesses looking for legal advice and sets out how the LSB intends to address these issues.
Despite some progress, too many consumers are still unable to get good information about the quality of legal services providers or make effective comparisons between them. This lack of transparency means they are not fully informed when choosing a provider.
The LSB received submissions from stakeholders which noted some positive market developments but highlighted the need for further action to capitalise on this progress.
Regulatory action that is responsive to consumer needs is needed to catalyse change in the market. The LSB’s plans include: improving the scope, standard and consistency of core information held by regulators about providers; supporting the development of digital comparison tools; building trust among consumers and providers in these services; and improving contextualisation and provision of data about providers’ performance.
Our upcoming consultation on a draft statutory policy statement will cover what regulators should be doing to empower consumers to choose high quality and affordable services. In addition to setting expectations around the provision of quality indicators, the statement will address information around price, service, redress, and public legal education. We will consult on this draft statement of policy later in 2021.
Dr Helen Phillips, Chair of the LSB, said:
“This work to improve the transparency of information about legal services providers strikes at the heart of our strategic aims to achieve fairer outcomes, stronger confidence and better services for consumers.
“Our response today makes clear our determination to see improved information about the quality of legal services providers available to consumers. We want to empower consumers to obtain high quality and affordable legal services and expect action by the regulators will be needed to achieve this.”
In December 2020, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) made recommendations to the regulators to make further improvements around market transparency and consumer engagement. It also asked the LSB to oversee and co-ordinate the regulators’ progress, while leading on the development of quality indicators and a single digital register of regulated providers.
In the last week, recommendations have been made to give the CMA greater powers, including a crackdown on fake reviews. To support and drive progress in this area, the LSB has established a new collaborative forum for the regulators to collectively improve consumers’ engagement with the market. The Market Transparency Co-ordination and Oversight Group (MTCOG) is chaired by the LSB and attended by the regulators and the Legal Services Consumer Panel.