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LSB publishes assessment of first-tier complaints-handling arrangements

01 March 2011

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has today published the results of its review into the progress approved regulators are making in ensuring first-tier (lawyers’ own) complaints-handling arrangements are fit for purpose. This includes the steps approved regulators have, and are, taking to meet the requirements of both the Legal Services Act 2007 and the guidance issued by the LSB. This guidance is re-iterated in Annex B to the report.

The review has looked at the requirements that each approved regulator has implemented to ensure effective first-tier complaints-handling arrangements, whilst providing an overview of the level of compliance with the 2007 Act.

The report identifies a number of issues that are common across the sector and also sets out matters specific to individual approved regulators. Its findings show that, whilst good progress has been made in bringing approved regulators’ arrangements into compliance with the Act, there are concerns about capacity for data collection – and therefore their ability learn from complaints patterns – as well as assessment methodologies.

The LSB has written to each approved regulator in reference to the findings.

Chief Executive of the Legal Services Board Chris Kenny said:
The importance of an effective complaints system is obvious for the consumer whose experience has fallen short – ensuring redress in these circumstances has been one of the most fundamental parts of the reform agenda. But it is also important that regulators are able to gather information in a way that can identify and measure systemic issues in the market. Such data enables us to make sure that regulation is properly addressing emerging areas of consumer detriment. The findings of this report provide an assessment of the progress that has been made across the regulatory landscape to ensure all bodies have the procedures and capacity to achieve both of these objectives.

Dianne Hayter, Chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, said:
The Consumer Panel's research shows consumers are reluctant to complain due to a fear that lawyers will outsmart them and the profession will close ranks to protect its own. This makes the LSB's signposting rule vital because it alerts people to their right to have their case considered by an independent and impartial Ombudsman. The finding that approved regulators' generally have poor data collection processes is worrying. Without this information, it is difficult to see how they can really know what problems consumers are experiencing and take the necessary steps to tackle them.