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Hayter calls for 'credible' solicitor comparison websites

11 November 2010

Dianne Hayter, chair of the LSB's Consumer Panel, has called for the development of "credible" solicitor comparison websites to help consumers choose between firms.

In a report on quality in legal services published today, Hayter called on the Legal Ombudsman to publish complaints data which could be used by “consumers and intermediaries”.

She went on: “Publishing complaints data could be effective because it recognises both the economic importance to lawyers of having a good reputation and the role of peer pressure in acting as a self-disciplining restraint.”

Hayter said the panel would “strongly encourage publication in a way that is fair and meaningful”.

She said regulators should also facilitate publication of consumer reviews which could feature in price comparison websites.

“However, such legal sites are yet to take off and have faced criticisms in other sectors for lack of coverage and bias.

“The panel supports the development of credible comparison sites and will return to this in 2011-12.”

Hayter said that harnessing consumer power to maintain quality could only go so far and that complaints data would not inform consumers about the technical quality of advice.

“Regulatory activity focuses on entry requirements and disciplinary processes. Unless an issue arises, there are few proactive checks to ensure that professionals remain competent.

“Quality checking mechanisms, such as peer review and chambers’ monitoring, focus on process rather than the substance of advice. The SRA’s intention to develop mystery shopping is a welcome exception.”

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Legal Aid Courts & Judiciary