OSS plots £300 complaints penalty for law firms

The Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS) has drawn up a controversial plan to fine law firms £300 if their internal complaints handling procedures are not up to scratch when they receive a client complaint.

The plan, which has been put before the Law Society's policy committee, would make firms whose clients have complained to the OSS pay a deposit of #300, which would only be returned if their complaints handling procedures were good enough.

The complaints body is also understood to be asking for complete independence from the Law Society and the right to fund itself by requiring solicitors to pay an annual levy.

The package of proposals is designed to head off growing calls from MPs for the Law Society to be stripped of its self-regulatory powers, but is certain to meet with stiff opposition from the profession.

Vice-president Robert Sayer said he was strongly opposed to the OSS's deposit plan which he described as “unbelievable”.

A Law Society spokesman said the plan was in line with the popular “polluter pays” principle. He denied the OSS wanted to split from the society, but added: “It is keen to continue the debate about its structure.”