The consultation “Price transparency – promoting consumer choice” aims to stimulate discussion within the legal profession and among other stakeholders, including consumer-interest groups, and is seeking views on the benefits and challenges of price transparency - if a lack of openness is detrimental to the consumer and competition with the legal services market and the factors which may already be driving change.
While Scottish solicitors are required to provide specific information to clients, there is no requirement to publish pricing information proactively and in advance of any client requests, although firms can promote their firms’ services as they see fit, including on pricing. The Law Society consultation is in response to consumer issues raised in a Competition and Markets Authority report. Carole Ford, non-solicitor convener of the Law Society of Scotland Regulatory Committee, said “The Competition and Markets Authority takes the view that legal services regulators, such as ourselves, should require price information to be published to stimulate competition in the market. Before we can even consider such a step, we want to engage with our membership,’ admitting there are both benefits and challenges to increasing price transparency.
Some law firms, Ms Ford said, already publish prices for legal services that could be considered as commoditised, such as conveyancing, wills or some family matters. However not all legal work lends itself to this kind of pricing. The complexity of some legal cases means they cannot be done for a fixed fee so it is essential to take this into account. Nor would we want to see any kind of ‘bait pricing’ where advertised costs are artificially low to attract business but in reality have very limited availability.