Increasing market transparency for consumers


The regulatory objectives include: protecting and promoting the interests of consumers; and promoting competition in the provision of legal services. We are focused on ensuring that consumers are better able to understand and engage with the legal services market.

This project includes our response to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) legal services market study and work on related issues.

We have worked with the regulators and the  CMA over recent years, and although there has been some progress, there are still significant barriers to consumers engaging effectively with the market and competition working properly.

We welcome the CMA’s latest findings from its progress review. We are considering the CMA’s recommendations and will set out our response shortly.

We have been monitoring activity across the sector and developing our own thinking on key relevant areas to improving consumer awareness and engagement, including quality indicators, price transparency and public understanding of the legal services sector. We intend to publish a statutory statement of policy in 2021 on these topics, which will set clear expectations of the regulatory bodies in tackling these issues.

When forming our policy, we will be informed by our recent research on the prices of legal services commonly purchased by individual consumers based in England and Wales and our research on legal capability.


CMA progress review – December 2020

On 17 December 2020, the CMA published the findings of its review of the progress made on improving competition and transparency in the legal services sector since its 2016 market study.

We have worked closely with the CMA are working closely with the CMA, and will reflect on its findings.


CMA market study – December 2016

Between 13 January 2016 and 15 December 2016 the CMA carried out a market study into legal services to see if they were working well for consumers and business.

The CMA recommended that the regulators develop action plans by 30 June 2017 to increase market transparency covering the following four areas:

  • Action to deliver a step-change in standards of transparency to help consumers (i) to understand the price and service they will receive, what redress is available and the regulatory status of their provider and (ii) to compare providers
  • Promotion of the use of independent feedback platforms to help consumers to understand the quality of service offered by competing providers
  • Facilitation of the development of a dynamic intermediary market through making data more accessible to comparison tools and other intermediaries
  • Making better information available to assist consumers when they are identifying their legal needs and the types of legal services providers (both regulated and unregulated) who can help them.

The CMA made a specific recommendation to the LSB that it:

  • Monitors and engages with the frontline regulators on their progress in implementing the CMA’s recommendations directed to them
  • Reports publicly, at appropriate intervals, on the sufficiency of action plans published by regulators individually and collectively and the progress in delivering those action plans
  • Takes appropriate action where regulators fail to address information gaps.

We have agreed to this recommendation and published a document which explains how we will deliver it.


Regulator action plans

The LSB has received action plans from all the regulators. In line with CMA’s recommendation, the LSB has assessed the sufficiency of all the plans:

Regulator: 
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

Link to action plan: 
Action plan

Link to sufficiency assessment
Assessment


Regulator: 
Bar Standards Board

Link to action plan: 
Action plan

Link to sufficiency assessment
Assessment

Link to progress report
Progress report


Regulator:
CILEx Regulation

Link to action plan: 
Action plan

Link to sufficiency assessment
Assessment

Link to progress report
Progress report


Regulator:
Costs Lawyer Standards Board

Link to action plan: 
Action plan

Link to sufficiency assessment
Assessment

Link to progress report
Progress report


Regulator:
Council for Licensed Conveyancers

Link to action plan: 
Action plan

Link to sufficiency assessment
Assessment

Link to progress report
Progress report


Regulator:
Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

Link to action plan: 
Action plan

Link to sufficiency assessment
Assessment

Link to sufficiency assessment
Progress report


Regulator:
Intellectual Property Regulation Board

Link to action plan: 
Action plan

Link to sufficiency assessment
Assessment

Link to progress report
Progress report


Regulator:
Faculty Office

Link to action plan: 
Action plan

Link to sufficiency assessment
Assessment

Link to progress report
Progress report


Regulator:
Solicitors Regulation Authority

Link to action plan: 
Action plan

Link to sufficiency assessment
Assessment

Link to progress report
Progress report


Key documents

The LSB engaged with the CMA throughout its market study. In particular, we made a series of announcements and made written submissions to the CMA at different stages, which you can find below.


Past work

In August 2016, we asked the Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) to provide advice on the effectiveness of information remedies in legal services regulation and how these could be improved. When we refer to ‘information remedies’ in the context of legal services regulation we mean information which an approved regulator requires authorised persons to provide to consumers at any stage – this could be when purchasing a legal service, during service delivery or dealing with a complaint. The LSCP published a report in March 2017 and we will publish our response in due course.

The LSCP’s advice followed previous work on open data, which we are taking forward as part of our response to the CMA’s market study. Further information on our historic work can be accessed here.

We are also monitoring the CMA’s separate market study into digital comparison tools (DCTs), which is examining whether the DCT sector is working well for consumers, and to determine how to maximise the benefits they offer. The LSB welcomed this market study in its response to the statement of scope in October 2016.The CMA published the final report of this market study in September 2017: CMA Digital comparison tools market study.