Response to the CMA Legal Services Market Study Report

Publication and Transparency of Fees in Conveyancing

In order to be transparent and easy to use, we have always published our conveyancing charges (in the form of a quote calculator) upfront and on our website.  This allows clients and introducers to budget and to make informed decisions before instructing us. 

We are cost competitive, offer a fixed fee "no-move-no-fee" policy and we stick to our estimates unless additional work is required.   

It was therefore interesting to note that conveyancing law firms are only now being urged to publish their conveyancing charges in a bid to help consumers and to encourage competition.

The Study

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) state that a market study conducted into legal services found that house movers often did not have the appropriate information to make a genuine choice of which conveyancing law firm best suited them.

“Many rely on recommendations via word-of-mouth without doing further research on what the market has to offer. This doesn’t guarantee value for money or a good service for the buyer” says the CMA which describes the current situation as involving “a lack of clear and comparable information which limits the ability of consumers to shop around and compare legal providers.”

“To require legal providers to advertise their prices directly on their websites so that pricing is transparent” and “encourage legal providers to engage with reviews and ratings online.”

The CMA says it will also help to develop online legal price comparison tools by getting regulators to make data available to the public.

The authority is also pledging to revamp the existing Legal Choices website “so it becomes a go-to tool for would-be home hunters.”

The changes to this website will enable consumers to identify their legal needs better, before they start the process of buying or renting and to help them understand the choices available to them to choose a legal provider.

“Better informed consumers who are more equipped to assess and make choices will increase competition, not just on price - where currently a similar service can cost twice as much depending on the provider - but also on quality and innovation” says CMA legal market study supervisor Rachel Merelie.

The CMA’s report and recommendations are sensible and identify what most progressive law firms are already doing. 

But they forgot… 

The real problem for consumers is trying to easily compare conveyancing estimates.  A consumer can obtain an online conveyancing estimate for £99 but unless they read the small print they will not know that they will end up paying a great deal more.  The CMA and the regulators should provide clearer guidance on what should be included in a ‘normal’ conveyancing estimate and should not permit firms to hide expected charges in the small print. 

Until such time, consumers will continue to be hooked by cheap looking conveyancing estimates only to discover before completion that their completion statements now include a number of un-budgeted and bulky conveyancing charges. 

Gladly, sharp practices by law firms are being stamped out. Recently, a law firm seeking to charge clients £200 to prioritise their files in order to achieve a Christmas completion was roundly and properly condemned by both regulators and the media. Cynical opportunism has no place if firms are to operate transparently and ethically.

Should you require any further information or assistance with regard to our specialist conveyancing services for new build and shared ownership purchasers, please do not hesitate to contact me.