SRA issues first fixed penalties

On Thursday 16th November 2023 the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) published the details of the first fixed penalties it has issued since introducing the new fixed financial penalty regime.

The £750 fines that have been published today are in relation to three firms who have not complied with the SRA’s transparency rules. The breaches included:

  • failure to publish information explaining key stages and likely timescales relating to services
  • failure to publish details on experience and qualifications of those working on some, or all, of the service areas covered by the rules
  • failure to include information on disbursement costs and VAT in published prices

The SRA has other live cases which may result in further fixed penalties for firms not complying with the transparency rules. Firms are sent notices of potential fines and given the opportunity to put the issue right.

If those firms who have been fined continue to not comply with the rules, then they could potentially face a further fixed penalty of £1,500.

Paul Philip, Chief Executive of the SRA, has said:

“Compliance is clearly not optional. Our transparency rules are there to benefit the public, helping people compare law firms’ services and make informed choices. All those firms that are publishing the correct information rightly expect that we will take action against those who don’t.

We brought in fixed penalties so we could deal with non-complex breaches of our rules more swiftly. That saves everyone time, cost and stress. It also appears that the threat of fixed penalties is proving effective in bringing firms into compliance.”

The SRA’s transparency rules require all regulated law firms to publish price and service information relating to certain common services on their websites, or make it available offline if they do not have a website. They also require firms to publish information on complaints procedures, and to display the SRA’s clickable logo to help consumers understand the protections they get from using a regulated firm.

The SRA’s new fixed penalty regime was introduced as part of wider reforms to the regulator’s approach to issuing financial penalties. Under the reforms, the SRA introduced a schedule of fixed penalties for firms of up to £1,500. These apply to a small number of lower-level breaches of its rules enabling them to be dealt with more effectively and in a timely way.

The changes to the SRA’s fining approach also saw the maximum level of fine that the SRA can issue directly rise from £2,000 to £25,000 for traditional law firms.

When the SRA takes disciplinary action, such as fining a firm, it publishes the decision on the Solicitors Register, which enables the public to look up the record of the solicitors and law firms its regulates.

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