One in four complaints due to lack of fee clarity, says Legal Ombudsman

11 June, 2015

A new report from the Legal ombudsman has revealed that more than a quarter (26 per cent) of complaints it receives are due to a lack of clarity on fees.

The study of 4,307 complaints, lodged with the Ombudsman between 1 June 2014 and 31 January 2015, showed that family law (23 per cent) was the largest source of complaints about unclear pricing, followed by Wills and Probate and litigation (both 14 per cent) .

These were followed by residential conveyancing (13 per cent), personal injury (6 per cent) and crime and employment (5 per cent).

The survey, requested by the Legal Services Board (LSB), was commissioned to look into the use of damages-based agreements.

In the report, the Ombudsman said litigation and employment were the two areas it expected to have a high number of complaints, but found instead that people were “often at their most vulnerable” when seeking family law and Wills services.

The Ombudsman added that it was “not the costs that are the problem, but the costs estimates being unrealistic, cost information being unclear and costs rising without the consumer’s knowledge”.

Following the report, the Legal Ombudsman has asked the LSB to continue to monitor fee agreements, especially after the introduction of alternative business structures and extend its jurisdiction to include claims management companies in January this year.

The LSB has said it will be contacting the various legal regulators to highlight the report’s findings and will be reminding them to “monitor developments in the area of price transparency” to ensure fair outcomes for clients.

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