What does the OFT report mean for conveyancing?

What does the OFT report mean for conveyancing?

The OFT commissioned report into Regulatory Restrictions in the Legal Profession by Europe Economics was released last week. What will it mean for conveyancers?

The report follows on from the 2001 OFT report into competition in the provision of legal and other professional services. That report led to the Clementi report and other changes that followed.

The report identifies three big changes introduced since 2001. Namely the introduction of the oversight regulator, the introduction of the Office of Legal Complaints and the introduction of alternative business structures.

The report finds that these developments have “gone a considerable way to addressing the concerns identified by earlier reviews.”

The report does consider some interesting factors that conveyancers may wish to consider.

It identifies that the majority of consumers with complaints about legal services never actually make a complaint. The report uses data from a You Gov survey that found that only 13% of consumers of legal services who have a complaint actually complain.  38% were unaware of the process and 17% reported that they had “on no occasions” been told how to report a complaint. This might lead to greater emphasis being put on the provision of clear complaints information over the coming years.

Elsewhere the report discusses the differences between reserved and unreserved activities, and whether these activities are regulated or unregulated.  For example will writing is unreserved and unregulated but claims management companies are unreserved but regulated.  The report considers conveyancing as an example where as part of the home moving process oversight is presently shared between the Legal Ombudsman, Ministry of Justice, the Financial Services Ombudsman and others.  The report points out that this type of shared oversight is confusing for customers and it may be better to have a single point of complaint.

Page 65 of the report shows in a tabular form the cost differentials of the regulator for the Solicitors Regulation Authority compared to the Council for Licensed Conveyancers. The table is included at the foot of this article.

Some data in the report will be interesting to those that look after marketing their conveyancing firms.  Firstly, the report breaks down use of legal services by age bands.  For most legal services the likelihood of purchase depends on the age of the consumer.  For example the older the consumer the more likely they are to engage with a lawyer to produce a will.  For conveyancing this is different.  Those below 24 in age and over 65 are less likely to buy conveyancing services but those between those ages are broadly as likely as each other to buy conveyancing.

Interestingly there is nothing in the report about referral fees.

The 2001 reported stimulated changes over the last decade that will continue to have changes on the market for many years.  This report may stimulate further changes and debates that may have similar consequences.

The above table is reproduced from the Europe Economics report for the OFT entitled “Economic Research into Regulatory Restrictions in the Legal Profession.” Jan 13 p.65

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