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SRA calls for all legal services to be regulated

All legal services should be regulated, to provide better protection for consumers, argues the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), in its response to the Legal Services Board's consultation on the scope of reserved activities.

In its response to the consultation, "Enhancing consumer protection, reducing regulatory restrictions", the SRA calls for a fundamental review of the basis of the regulation of legal services in England and Wales.

It says the LSB's proposed approach, of an activity by activity review of the current reserved legal activities, will not address the significant problems that arise for consumers from the current systems.

In the SRA's view, these problems include:

  • A lack of clarity for consumers about which legal services are regulated and which are not, against an underlying consumer expectation that all professional legal services are regulated
  • A lack of consistent consumer protection and redress, not only between regulated and unregulated legal services but also between services regulated by different regulators
  • A lack of focus on quality, standards and ethical behaviour across all legal services, leading to the risk of a failure to get things right first time for consumers and, therefore, an unnecessarily heavy reliance on redress;
  • Increased regulatory cost in the system (which is ultimately borne by consumers) as a result of the multiplicity of regulators and level of resource required to manage the interactions between them.

In its response, the SRA sets out the need for regulation, both in the wider public interest and to promote and protect the interests of consumers. It sees the promotion of competition in the legal services market as an important aspect of both, but says competition, of itself, cannot achieve the wider public interest objectives that must be met.

SRA Chief Executive Antony Townsend said:

"We welcome the Legal Services Board's consultation paper as an important opening contribution to the debate. We are keen to contribute to and take the debate forward.

"We believe the starting point for this review should be that all legal services should be regulated in the public interest and in the interests of consumers, rather than starting from a more narrowly based review of individual activities as proposed by the LSB. However, we accept that there is a case in the short term for the extension of reserved legal activities to specific activities such as will writing, while a wider review is undertaken.

"In order to help progress this debate we will shortly be organising a conference for those with an interest in this issue to come together and discuss the issues raised."

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