The Law Society has lashed out at the Legal Services Complaints Commissioner Zahida Manzoor after it was fined £275,000 for inadequate complaints handling.
Law Society chief executive Des Hudson and Legal Complaints Service (LCS) board chair Professor Shamit Saggar have hit back at Manzoor after she administered her second fine for poor performance.
Saggar said: “By any reasonable measure this is a disproportionate action by the Legal Services Complaints Commissioner that brings no benefit to either the legal profession or consumers of legal services. You do not fine a successful organisation, let alone one that in fact leads the way in consumer redress.”
But Manzoor argued: “It is disappointing and regrettable that this fine had to be imposed but the LCS did not provide reasonable targets. The targets were back-ended, with the LCS providing some that they’d already met the previous year.”
Hudson said: “The performance of LCS compares favourably to other similar organisations and on any reasonable measure LCS must now be regarded as an effective complaints handling body.”
Manzoor took the decision after the plan to handle grievances provided by Law Society’s complaints arm, the LCS and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), did not come up to scratch for the period 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009.
Manzoor added: “The differences between the targets I set and the plan the LCS submitted are not, as LCS have argued ‘largely minor ones of timing’. Delaying of targets to the back end of the year is potentially no different than achieving a lower level of performance on average across the year.”
This is the second time in two years that the Commissioner has used her powers to impose a penalty on the Law Society – it previously paid a £220,000 fine for submitting an inadequate plan for the year 2006/07.
Manzoor said it was the extent of the inadequacy of the plan determined the imposition of a penalty at this level. She said that the LCS had to take the lion’s share of the blame.
“The Law Society spent £36m on complaints handling, with the LCS spending £31m of that and the SRA, which only has a nominal role in complaints, spending £5m. It should be significantly less as it is much higher than the average of other complaint handling organisations,” said Manzoor.