Get your voice heard by the Competition and Markets Authority! Please take 15 minutes to complete this important CMA survey about the wills and probate market – the deadline has been extended to 26 August. To encourage you to participate, executive director, general counsel for the Law Society, Janice More, provides some background to the survey.

The survey you are asked to complete comes from the CMA in connection with the market study the CMA is carrying out of the legal services market for consumers and small businesses.

The CMA is very much an advocate for the consumer, and its review is from the perspective of what is in the best interests of the consumer, rather than legal profession. It is looking at the whole market for consumers and small businesses, and is also carrying out a number of case studies, one of which is on the wills and probate area.

The CMA have issued an interim report that sets out its findings so far. You will notice that section 7 deals with proposed remedies to address the issues that it has identified with the market. These issues are primarily around a lack of transparency on pricing and service quality. The CMA is considering addressing these issues in the following ways:

  • mandating more information on pricing and services on firms’ websites;
  • requiring simpler pre-engagement information / letters and providing other relevant information (e.g. on timings and the people who will work on the matter);
  • requiring that additional information is provided once clients are engaged (e.g. likely disbursements);
  • breaking down perceived barriers to comparison between providers, perhaps using the SRA’s Legal Choices website;
  • broadening the remit of the Legal Ombudsman (LeO); and
  • mandating the use of alternative dispute resolution with clients who have a complaint.

You can find the case study on wills as Appendix A in the interim report. Important points to note are:

1. The CMA does not think the market is working as well as it should.

2. It believes unregulated providers are more transparent on pricing.

3. It believes quality is similar across regulated and unregulated providers.

The CMA is trying to obtain more data on:

  • the quality of will-writing services across the whole sector (regulated and unregulated);
  • the role and impact of regulation (e.g. whether will writing should be a reserved activity);
  • whether the fact that solicitors’ clients have access to the LeO prevents consumer harm; and
  • how competition works in the probate sector.

If you have any concerns or questions please contact Denise Murphy or Laura Wigan at the Law Society.

The results of the survey will be used partially by the CMA in determining its ultimate decision around remedies, including whether the regulator should address the transparency issue and whether the regulatory framework should be amended.