Regulator to ‘sweep’ 500 websites to monitor price compliance

The SRA has confirmed that it will randomly check hundreds of law firm websites to check they are meeting new requirements for price transparency.

The SRA stresses it does not wish to dictate what fees are charged, and that it appreciates the new rules require changes to websites. But the regulator has made it clear non-compliance is not an option. This is something of a departure from the rather non-urgent approach taken by the regulator at the outset – possibly in reaction to some of the negative reactions from the profession.

The regulator this week confirmed plans to ‘sweep’ around 500 law firm websites chosen at random for compliance, as part of regular checks. Firms found to have taken no steps to comply, deliberately refused to comply, or deliberately provided vague, misleading or meaningless information, will be in line for a rebuke or possibly a fine.

SRA chief executive Paul Philip said yesterday that the organisation has always wanted to take a proportionate approach, but warned those continuing to disregard the rules. ‘This is not a hugely important thing, but you are obliged to do it and you are forcing us into taking disproportionate action when you should just comply and move forward,’ said Philip. ‘I have no doubt we will end up with a rump of people who are not doing it.’

The SRA also confirmed it will work with consumer group to raise awareness of the new requirements and to encourage reporting.

Since December, firms have been subject to new regulations requiring them to publish details of their prices and service information if they work in certain areas of law. The new rules apply to conveyancing (residential), probate (uncontested), motoring offences (summary offences), immigration (excluding asylum), employment tribunals (unfair or wrongful dismissal), debt recovery and licensing applications.

Price information must be presented in a ‘clear and easy to understand format’, providing a total cost or, if this is not possible, an average or range of costs.

Contact Legal Eye for help with displaying price and service transparency information in a way that not only complies with the regulatory requirements but also helps your business to win clients and retain work. More information can be found here.

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