Solicitors Regulation Authority refuses to make complaints data available to the public

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has reneged on its original proposal to require solicitor firms to make details of complaints made against them available to the public.

The business world has increasingly recognised the power of providing customer feedback data as a means of showing future purchasers the quality of service and products they themselves might expect should they go on to buy.

The likes of Amazon are perhaps one of the largest and most well known companies, which routinely displays feedback about what their customers think of their products and services.

Long ago, eBay implemented seller ratings so a purchaser could get an idea of the track record of a seller they otherwise would have known nothing about.

The idea has caught on in mainstream business. How many of us, when looking to buy, will take note of reviews on Trustpilot, TripAdvisor or the likes of Trusted Trader?

The Law Society, which represents solicitor’s interests, has harangued the Government to regulate Will writing on a number of occasions. The Government has (regrettably) stated there was no compelling need to regulate Will writing services, but insists that the sector regulates itself.

The Institute of Professional Willwriters’ response – of which this company is a full member – was to develop a Code of Practice. The Code was ultimately approved and sponsored by the Office of Fair Trading (now by Chartered Trading Standards institute).

But part of the requirement of the OFT was that IPW members working under the Code must ask for client feedback. Furthermore, that feedback would be made publicly available on the IPW’s website for all to see.

So, potential clients looking for a Will writer can find out how good – or bad – their Will writer is by simply looking on the IPW website.

So, why has the SRA dropped plans to compel solicitors to provide complaints data? It appears that many interested parties simply didn’t like the idea (extracts from the SRA report):

 Many respondents felt that raw complaints data could be misleading and pose an unfair disadvantage to some firms.”

“Some respondents were also concerned that publishing complaints data would distort the behaviour of some firms and their employees…” 

Well, those issues haven’t stopped all of the other companies from publishing customer feedback data.

What about school performance ratings, nurseries?

So, I can check out the reputation of whom I buy my holiday from, the quality of work a trader will carry out. Those who care and educate my children are compelled to publicise the results of their checks, but I cannot find out anywhere other than word of mouth how good my solicitor is?

Surely that’s not right?

Incidentally, it is fascinating that the Legal Ombudsman and the Legal Services Consumer Panel were both in favour of the proposal requiring solicitors to make feedback data publicly available.

Two important points then:

  1. Stick to those legal services providers who will volunteer feedback on the quality of their services. In terms of Will writers, only Institute of Professional Willwriters members provide that information.
  2. Be very wary of those who want to hide their feedback

The full report will be available on the Solicitors Regulation Authority website.

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