New SRA Transparency Rules
The Legal Services Board approved the SRA Transparency Rules on 3 August 2018, and the rules relating to price and service information, and regulatory…
The Legal Services Board approved the SRA Transparency Rules on 3 August 2018, and the rules relating to price and service information, and regulatory and complaints information will be effective from 6 December 2018 – just in time for Christmas and the January sales!
Firms will need to update their website information to include price and service information in relation to specified areas, and preparations should start sooner rather than later, as there is quite a lot of information to cover. The SRA issued guidance and templates on 2 October, updated November 2018, which includes sample pricing templates for different types of work, but firms are not required to use the specific templates.
So, what will need to be included on your website?
Price and service information, which must be clear, accessible and in a prominent place, in the following areas:
- For individual clients: residential conveyancing, probate (where all assets are within the UK and uncontested), immigration applications (except asylum), road traffic offences (summary only and dealt with at a single hearing), and employment tribunal claims (unfair/wrongful dismissal only)
- For business clients: employment tribunal claims (unfair/wrongful dismissal), debt recovery (up to £100,000), and licensing applications for business premises.
The price information must include:
- The total cost of the service or the average cost or range of costs
- The basis of charges, including any hourly rates or fixed fees
- A description of, and the cost of, any likely disbursements or the average cost or range of costs
- Whether any fees or disbursements attract VAT and if so, the amount of VAT
You will also need to provide details of what services are included in the price, including:
- The key stages of the matter and likely timescales for each stage
- The experience and qualifications of anyone carrying out the work, and of their supervisors
- Details of services that might reasonably be included in the price displayed but are not
- If you use conditional fee or damages-based agreements, the circumstances in which clients may have to make any payments themselves for your services (including from any damages)
You will, of course, still have to comply with your existing obligation to give clients the best possible information on costs, and to ensure that publicity is accurate and not misleading. The SRA has said it will investigate complaints of non-compliance and of misleading information, but it does appear to indicate that the approach it will take on transparency requirements will have a degree of flexibility, allowing for the use of diverse charging models to price services for clients as firms see fit.
Regulatory and complaint related information
Even if your firm does not carry out work in the areas covered by the Transparency Rules in relation to price and service information requirements, you will need to update your website to include
- Complaints information
Details of your complaints handling procedure, including details about how and when a complaint may be made to the Legal Ombudsman and to the SRA.
- Regulatory information
You will have to display the firm’s SRA number in a prominent place, and the SRA’s digital badge, which the SRA have confirmed will be available to download from 6 December. Clicking on the badge will take a user to a new SRA landing page. The badge is expected to become a mandatory requirement during Spring 2019.
The rules confirm the existing requirement for letterheads and emails to show the SRA authorisation number and the words ‘authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
If your firm does not have a website, you must make the costs and complaints information available on request.
Whilst these changes are being imposed on firms and must be complied with, they are an opportunity to review your pricing structures, client care letters and costs advice in all practice areas and thus provide a better overall service to your clients and prospective clients.
Compli provides you with full support on all risk, compliance and regulatory issues, all with the benefit of legal professional privilege, together with a suite of e-learning courses. If you have any queries on these changes or wish to discuss how Compli can help take the strain, call us on 0345 070 1047 or complete the form below.