Last month we reported that Andersons Solicitors had been removed from a number of lender panels ahead of a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing.
The hearing was to consider whether they had misled their clients regarding cost information.
We now know that the firm had been removed from at least eight conveyancing panels and that it’s future is now jeopardised.
Following the outcome of the tribunal Mr Treverton-Jones QC explained that Andersons were “considering termination of their business albeit the summer of 2013 would have been the firms 40th anniversary.”
The case is of particular relevance to firms that have “additional costs” commonly incurred in most transactions which are not stated in the headline price. Such firms should read the judgement itself. It can be found at this link.
Whilst most conveyancers who operate using this type of model will not be concerned by the tribunal’s outcome, it is worth understanding how the tribunal reached its decision and how to avoid the same situation.
Andersons appear to have routinely sent a quotation letter to their clients early in the process along with a number of booklets providing additional information, one of which set out additional costs information.
– Some clients were either not provided with adequate costs information or that the information provided was misleading.
– Andersons overcharged conveyancing clients and/or took unfair advantage of their conveyancing clients because they made additional charges for advising on joint ownership, on mortgage conditions, and on additional titles where the charges were wholly disproportionate.
– In some cases Andersons charged more for specific items than they set out in their costs documentation.
– The firm failed to obtain client consent prior to earning and keeping insurance commissions.
– They stated that they were regulated by the Law Society rather than the SRA on their publicity
– They made inappropriate reference to the Solicitors’ Complaints Bureau
– They failed to provide their SRA number on publicity
– They failed to achieve outcomes 1.7 i.e. “you inform clients whether and how the services you provide are regulated and how this affects the protections available to the client”, outcome 8.1 i.e. “your publicity in relation to your firm or in-house practice or for any other business is accurate and not misleading, and is not likely to diminish the trust the public places in you and in the provision of legal services”, and/or outcome 8.4 i.e. “clients and the public have appropriate information about you, your firm and how you are regulated”.
– Allowed residual client account balances to remain on client account ledgers in breach of the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules 1998.