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Consumer panel reveals ‘horror stories’ about other people's solicitors

LeO had to turn away over 2,000 third-party complaints during 2012-13

24 September 2013

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The legal services consumer panel has published what it described as "some real horror stories" from people wanting to complain about somebody else's solicitor.

The move comes as LeO announces its intention to set up a steering group on the issue, to decide which third-party complaints should be investigated.

The legal ombudsman is pressing to expand its jurisdiction not only to third-party complaints but to those relating to all kinds of legal services, whether the provider is a solicitor or another professional.

The consumer panel said LeO had to turn away more than 2,180 third-party complaints in the last financial year, because they were not eligible under existing rules. The panel published a selection of anonymous case studies, which included complaints about failed conveyancing transactions, repeated calls to a woman's home from a law firm chasing a debt and the problems experienced by a bereaved father trying to recover money he had invested in a property to help his deceased son.

"The case studies include some real horror stories where consumers have been badly let down by lawyers, but then find the Legal Ombudsman cannot help them," Elisabeth Davies, chair of the legal services consumer panel, said.

"This double whammy cannot be allowed to continue - it is deeply unfair, leaves bad practice unpunished and undermines public confidence in legal services regulation.

"The panel accepts that not all third-party complaints should be investigated, but the current blanket ban on all such complaints is plainly wrong. We look forward to working constructively with stakeholders to identify the right way forward, so that redress for consumers can be sensibly extended."

Adam Sampson, chief legal ombudsman, said LeO promised last year to identify types of third-party complaints that it should investigate in the future.

"This is a tricky issue which needs to be grappled with to find a solution that is fair to consumers and lawyers," Sampson said.

"We want to help consumers and lawyers with this issue and will be working on proposals for how we deal with third-party complaints over the coming months."

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