Shop Around For Legal Services Urge LSB
The Legal Services Board (LSB), recently published its Prices of Individual Consumer Legal Services in England and Wales 2020: Wave 3 of a survey of prices for commonly used legal services report, in which it highlights regional price variations for “what is fundamentally the same service”, and encourages the public to shop around for their legal service needs.
The report is founded on research conducted by the LSB and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in which 1,500 providers were contacted to discuss price on 15 specific scenarios covering conveyancing, divorce and wills, trusts and probate.
Regional variations were discovered and the report suggests that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown restrictions has resulted to more clients turning to the internet and instructing solicitors that they haven’t needed to meet face to face.
The report states:
“The research found a wide dispersion of prices. While a range of prices is expected when differing service quality is available, over time we would expect to see a narrowing of price range for similar scenarios, which was not evident in this study.
“We found no consistent pattern on the spread of prices, as was the case in the 2017 or 2015 waves of this research. We also found no trend between 2017 and 2020, with some spreads barely changing but others increasing or decreasing.”
Naturally, legal services in London were 33% more expensive than firms in other areas of the country, whilst the North of England (20%) and Wales (17%) were cheaper.
Another factor that the report explored focused on whether those involved offered fixed prices or used estimates.
The report found:
“Providers who offered fixed prices were on average 35% cheaper than those using estimates. This may be partly influenced by the fact that some providers prefer to give a range rather than a single price and when prompted to do so tended to settle towards the top of the range.
“We also found that providers who used estimates were more likely to have cases costing the customer more than originally anticipated.”
The LSB argued that greater price competition in the legal sector may be stimulated by information being available about the quality of legal service providers, “so it is important that regulators find solutions to help consumers compare on quality as well as price”.
A section of the report focused on the effect of potential reforms to the divorce and probate services that HMCTS could use to alter providers charges.
The report stated:
“At the time of they survey few providers had used either service. Most thought that the reforms will not affect prices, between 12% and 20% thought they will decrease prices and hardly any that they will increase prices.”