Legal eagles not impressed with average price suggestions

Hayley Kirton
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Say what? Legal eagles have clashed over the best way to improve price transparency in the market (Source: Getty)

The professional body for solicitors has today slammed calls for firms to publish their average costs.

Last week, the Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) responded to the interim Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report into the legal services market and suggested red tape should be introduced to make publishing average fees mandatory.

Although noting the Society wanted to improve the legal market and agreeing it could benefit from more transparent information about price and service quality, Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon called the recommendation "misconceived".

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"A narrow focus on price – especially average price which could be particularly misleading – is potentially damaging to clients' ability to make informed choices," said Dixon. "Publishing average prices in areas of work where there are multiple variables affecting the actual costs would be confusing and in many cases meaningless – the opposite of what the LSCP intends."

In its CMA report response, the LSCP accepted it might be tricky in some instances, particularly when the work involved is complex, to provide fixed fees or completely accurate estimates. However, it added not providing some sort of guideline "disproportionately shifts the risks on to consumers, who are already disadvantaged by virtue of information asymmetry".

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The CMA launched a market study into the legal sector at the start of the year to have a closer look at issues relating to affordability and standards of service on offer. It published its interim report in July, which criticised the industry for a lack of upfront information on fees that would give customers a better chance of comparing services.

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