Many thousands of individuals have complained about unregulated legal service providers and the government calls for greater protection for consumers against the growing number of cowboys offering will writing services and conveyancing.
Chief of the Legal Services Ombudsman, Adam Sampson, today released his first annual report which shows that since being founded in October last year, 38,155 people have contacted the organisation to complain about substandard legal service providers.
Mr Sampson said: “One service which crops up a lot is will writing. It is a service carried out often by will writing firms who aren’t regulated. Because of this, customers are left with little means of redress when things go wrong”.
Which? – the well known consumer company – and the Law Society – the organisation responsible for regulating professional law firms such as Holmes & Hills Solicitors – supported the Chief Ombudsman’s calls for action to be taken to ensure greater protection for consumers against unregulated service providers.
Des Hudson, Chief Executive of the Law Society for England and Wales, argued that allowing unregulated firms to operate in the legal services sector taints the market and is harmful to regulated firms of solicitors who provide professional services. He went on to say: “it is also damaging to consumers because the unregulated providers are not insured, do not provide a compensation fund and are not covered by the Legal Ombudsman’s scheme for consumer redress”.
The legal ombudsman only regulates qualified solicitors and so is unable to act on complaints against other unregulated firms and persons. Richard Loyd, Which? Executive Director, argued this was unacceptable, saying: “We want the government and regulators to wake up to the current lack of clarity and to provide a clear and straightforward route for redress for consumers”.
Such is the poor level of service by unregulated firms, the Legal Services Board will be launching an investigation into the unregulated will writing market after a survey conducted by mystery shoppers found a high degree of malpractice by such firms.
Chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, Dianne Hayter, said: “it is vital that advisors do a competent job, especially since any defects are unlikely to be discovered until it is too late to fix them”