With price transparency currently featuring heavily in the legal press many Legal Eye clients have quite rightly been asking both us and the regulator/s for further detail on what will be required from them and in particular what information firms will be expected to publish on their websites.
Formal guidance from one or more of the regulators and from the Law Society is expected shortly, Legal Eye’s view is that firms are unlikely to be issued with a prescriptive set of rules in response.
Instead the view is that it may well be sufficient for firms to give examples on their websites of prices that a client may expect to pay for a transaction of a particular type. For example, a conveyancer may give an example of a fee payable for a house purchase of say £250,000, along with the disbursements and VAT payable. The figures given would be indicative and could not be taken as an absolute quote by a client. The client must still obtain a detailed quote from the firm in question which takes into account the individual circumstances of the transaction in line with current practices.
Firms offering a wide range of services, within the boundaries of the types of service covered by the price transparency guidelines which include conveyancing, will probably need to give a variety of examples so as to provide a reasonable guide to price. For example, a conveyancer may give a typical price for a freehold, shared ownership, leasehold or equity release transaction as well as for a ‘standard’ transaction.
The indication – subject to the definitive advice from the regulators yet to be published – is that the regulators accept that matters may incur additional fees as the case progresses and new information comes to light in which case the principle of transparency and of providing as much advance notice as possible to the client will apply.
Although it is not expected that a firm’s website will have the facility to create a definitive quote; the provision of example fees is likely to be sufficient to meet the requirement. Some firms, especially those who already offer an online quote calculator, may already be doing enough to meet the new requirements.
We are awaiting the formal guidance but our advice at this stage is this is about keeping customers at the forefront of the transaction and giving them as much help as you can to assist their understanding of the way fees are calculated.
We will issue more guidance as it becomes available.