Which? stands its ground on survey

THE CONSUMERS' Association has enlisted the support of the Building Societies Ombudsman as part of a long-running dispute with the Law Society over the accuracy of one of its surveys.

The association has published a letter from ombudsman Brian Murphy in a bid to back claims first made in October by Which? magazine that many solicitors were handing out shoddy advice.

The Law Society had challenged Which? assertions that solicitors approached with a legal problem about a negligent building society survey should have suggested the ombudsman.

In his letter, the ombudsman said he saw no reason why an approach should not have been considered.

He added: “I have to say, however, that I relatively rarely receive claims through solicitors and my experience is that many solicitors are not generally aware of the extent of my jurisdiction.”

Which? had highlighted the fact that none of the 20 firms which had the problem put to them mentioned the ombudsman. The Law Society responded that the magazine was wrong because the ombudsman did not have jurisdiction under the scenario devised by Which?.

Murphy said he could have dealt with the complaint in question as long as the buyer was an existing borrower.

Consumers' Association head of legal affairs Ashley Holmes said: “Solicitors we investigated only had to check whether their client was a borrower of the building society at the time of the survey. If so, the ombudsman scheme was available.”

A society spokesman said: “Which? was giving model advice to readers. In its best light the information it gave was incomplete.”