CMA proposes reforms to Scottish legal services sector

24 Mar 2020 12:51 PM

The CMA has completed a research project to examine competition and regulation in the Scottish legal services sector.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is recommending a series of measures to improve the information made available to people to make it easier for them to shop around when arranging their house purchase or dealing with a divorce. The CMA is also recommending a series of regulatory reforms, including that an independent body regulates legal services in Scotland.

Well-functioning legal services are critical to people and businesses, who can face costly legal needs at important moments in their lives. However, there are indications that the Scottish legal services sector may not currently be delivering good outcomes for people. Consumer complaints are increasing; high street solicitors are facing challenging market conditions; and regulation in Scotland has not adequately responded to new market pressures.

While there have been longstanding discussions in Scotland about the need for regulatory reform and lifting restrictions in the legal services sector, the pace of reform has been slow.

The CMA examined how well the current sector is functioning. It studied whether there is evidence of a lack of competition among legal service providers in Scotland, looking specifically at the transparency of information on price and quality. This work built on the CMA’s previous market study into legal services in England and Wales. The CMA carried out a survey, asking all the legal service firms in Scotland that provide the services most demanded by Scottish consumers for their views on offering better information on prices to their clients.

The CMA considers that legal providers can and should do a better job of informing people on what the costs will be.

To help customers get better value for money and make sure the industry is best placed to be competitive, the CMA is making a number of recommendations including:

The CMA encourages the Scottish Government to implement the recommendations promptly, but recognises the challenges of the current environment and the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

As part of its research, the CMA engaged with a wide range of organisations including the legal services regulators in Scotland, legal professionals and consumer bodies. The CMA also commissioned IFF Research to conduct a survey of solicitor firms in Scotland on its behalf last year.

Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s CEO yesterday said:

It is important that people in Scotland have access to high-quality and good value legal services. In addition to increasing transparency of information, our recommendations are intended to introduce greater liberalisation that could foster growth and innovation in the delivery of legal services which would help the sector grow.

You might not need a lawyer very often but when you do it will often be at a crucial point in your life, so addressing regulatory and competition shortcomings will make a real difference.

More information can be found on the case page.