OFT prompts Northern Ireland law ad relaxation

The Law Society of Northern Ireland has changed its regulations after an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation.

The OFT found that the society prohibited solicitors from fee advertising and comparative fee advertising. It also found that the society banned solicitors paying referral fees to non-lawyers as well as soliciting to existing and potential clients.

The Law Society of Northern Ireland has since amended its practice regulations.

Director of competition enforcement at the OFT Vincent Smith said the society’s amendments relating to fees would encourage competition on price by enabling prospective clients to compare solicitors’ rates.

“The introduction of greater competition between solicitors in Northern Ireland will bring benefits to consumers,” he said. “Relaxing the restrictions on soliciting will allow solicitors, and small firms in particular, to compete more effectively for clients.”

The OFT closed its file on the Law Society of Northern Ireland after it had made the changes to its regulations. The OFT made no decision as to whether the society’s practice regulations infringed competition law.