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Consumer panel asks firms to adopt standard on ‘vulnerable consumers’

Firms lack deaf awareness

29 May 2012

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The legal services consumer panel has written to firms asking them to adopt an official British standard on vulnerable consumers.

Elisabeth Davies, chair of the consumer panel, said there were “wide differences in experience across the population and a lack of awareness among lawyers about the needs of vulnerable groups”.

She went on: “We are asking regulators and firms in the sector to show their commitment to tackling these inequalities by adopting this British standard, which helps organisations to identify vulnerable consumers and treat them fairly.”

The call follows research by the consumer panel with deaf consumers which the panel said revealed that legal services were often inaccessible to people with hearing loss and showed a lack of “deaf awareness” by law firms.

A spokesman for the panel said BS 18477 was developed by charities, consumer organisations and government bodies to encourage the use of fair, ethical and inclusive practices and show organisations how to identify vulnerable consumers.

He said organisations that agreed to adopt the standard would be listed on the panel’s website.

The panel has written to organisations including the Legal Services Board, the regulatory arms of the approved regulators, the Legal Services Commission, the CPS, the Claims Management Regulator, HM Courts and Tribunals Service and a selection of solicitor firms and barrister chambers.

In the letter, Davies said approved regulators could use the standard in many ways, and, as public bodies for the purpose of the Equality Act 2010, adopting it could be used as evidence that the public sector equality duty was being delivered.

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