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Consumers are put off by the complexities of complain process says a survey

Date: (21 January 2013)    |    

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The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has attacked the complexity of the legal complaints process. It had commissioned a report from consultants where it was found that a third of dissatisfied clients were of the opinion that they did not complain because they were unable to understand the process.

Europe Economics said that it contacted just over 2,000 people last summer as part of a bigger survey by IpsosMORI.

Around a third of consumers in general were not happy with services of conveyancing solicitors or probate solicitors that they had used since 2007.

The consultants pointed out that the Legal Ombudsman had to redirect 13,500 complaints back to firms, compared with the 8,420 complaints it actually accepted.

Mary Starks, senior director of services, infrastructure and public markets at the OFT, said far too many consumers were unhappy with the services they received, but still were not able to complain due to the complex nature of the system.

He said that a better approach in handling complaints would not only support consumers right to redress when things go wrong but it would also provide law firms with customer focused approach which the survey had found was still needed.

Chief Ombudsman Adam Sampson said LeO’s research has drawn similar conclusions to the OFT about why dissatisfied legal service users did not complain.

He said that consumers often believed that they would not get a fair hearing or that lawyers are not keen to see customers go to the Legal Ombudsman with complaints.

He added that Legal Ombudsman was set up specifically to replace the various legal complaints bodies in existence at the time so that consumers could approach a single point of contact for legal complaints. After making a complaint with their lawyer if the consumer was not happy with the outcome he could bring it to the Legal Ombudsman.

Sampson added that the introduction of LeO had reduced the cost of complaints handling in the legal services sector by around £18m per annum, a 51 per cent reduction on the old system.

Chris Kenny, chief executive of the Legal Services Board, said the OFT’s report was a “timely reminder that much more needs to be done to modernise legal services market and make it more consumer friendly.

The basic issue being raised by the report was that there was a need to simplify the design and operation of the regulatory system on a continuous basis.

The OFT has invited representatives from the legal profession, regulators and consumer groups to a roundtable meeting next week to discuss complaints handling and other research findings.