Scotland’s legal service has been put in the dock by Which?, as the consumer association files a ‘super-complaint’ with the Office of Fair Trading.
Which? claims that the legal service, regulated by The Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates, is failing consumers.
Julia Clarke, principal public affairs officer at Which?, said consumers should be able to access legal services from a range of organisations, not just traditional law firms.
“This should lead to improved standards of customer service and greater efficiency, improving price and quality for consumers,” said Clarke. “Although most of the restrictions can be removed straight away, deregulation will require the introduction of new legislation to ensure that people are not left vulnerable to unscrupulous practices.”
The association alleges that the regulatory controls on how legal professionals in Scotland are allowed to practise and how consumers can access legal representation are too strict.
Which? believes this hinders market innovation and restricts consumer choice, which may lead to higher prices.
The consumer group, which has legal powers to file a super-complaint if it believes actions within a market may be significantly harming consumers’ interests, is calling for the Scottish legal service to be deregulated in a similar style to that being introduced in England and Wales through the Clementi reforms.
Which? believes that deregulation would allow advocates, conveyancers, mortgage advisers, surveyors and estate agents to work together to deliver packages of legal and other services, which would result in greater convenience and less cost to consumers.
A spokesman from the Faculty of Advocates said that the current position of Scotland’s legal system is going to be addressed.
“The structure of the legal profession in Scotland is likely to be addressed in the new Parliamentary session following the report of the Scottish Executive Research Working Group on the provision of legal services published in May last year,” he said.
“The faculty would expect that the appropriate place for consideration of the structure of the legal profession in Scotland is within that legislative framework as a result of which changes may be made which would address the concerns of Which?”