Alternative Business Structures – what effect on the conveyancing industry?

Leading search provider Searches UK has recently published the results of its survey of those working in the UK conveyancing market.   The survey was conducted in March and used a sample of 700 conveyancing practioners. 42% of those questioned believe that ABSs will have a negative effect on the conveyancing industry.
One of the main concerns that practitioners had was that ABS will not be regulated to the same high standards currently required of legal practices.  61% of those questioned had fears in this respect.  One respondent commented that the key to ABS working well is correct supervision and monitoring by the relevant authorities.
65% of those surveyed felt that, following the recent failures of regulation within the financial services and banking sectors, now is not the right time to be introducing ABS.  
The survey shows that another major concern is that the introduction of ABS will mean a drop in quality and standards within the conveyancing industry.  Many believe that the move will result in clients paying for poor service after being seduced by lower prices, whilst the share in the market place for traditional conveyancers gradually dries up.  Comments such as, “There is not enough work to go round at the present time, so with ABS coming into the market, people will be confused and I personally think that standards will drop” and, “Clients will deal with factory type operations and lose the personal touch,” were frequently noted throughout the results from the survey.
One concern seen in the survey is that the fear of not being able to compete against larger ABSs. 
71% of the survey participants felt that it would be best to have had one body regulating ABS.  Currently the SRA, Law Society and Council for Licensed Conveyancers are licensing authorities.  One comment was, “It would have been better to have one body. This would mean a level playing field and one set of regulations instead of a free for all which may allow easier fraud to take place and the lessening of the public’s faith in conveyancing firms even further.”  However, by contrast, another comment against just one regulating body stated, “This would restore a monopoly which is clearly contrary to the public interest”.  
Despite the negative feelings felt by many, 29% of those questioned felt that the entry of ABSs into the market represent an opportunity of conveyancing firms to develop.  The option of becoming an ABS, whether in the immediate or long term, was not ruled out by the majority of firms.
As ABSs enter the market, the concern amongst the traditional conveyancing industry is high.  It remains to be seen whether the concerns over falling quality will actually result.  
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