News releases

SRA praised for consumer initiatives

 A discussion paper just issued by the Legal Services Consumer Panel has singled out the SRA for praise in several areas relating to making consumers' lives easier when choosing legal services and understanding their rights.

The report—Empowering Consumers Background Paper 2: learning from other sectors (PDF 535K, 49 pages)—highlights existing good practice shown by legal service regulators and makes recommendations for improvement.

Reference to current policy and practice with other areas is reviewed, including aviation, communications, dentistry, energy, financial services, food safety, health and social care, higher education and social housing—either because of their similarity to legal services or because they have recently developed major consumer empowerment initiatives.

Using ten themes* to measure success, the report mentions as an example of good practice that the SRA is the "only regulator so far to take a strategic approach to consumer empowerment"—which is top of the Panel's wishlist. It also found the SRA to be the only regulator to provide information on choosing and using legal services in the form of downloadable leaflets, consumer videos and FAQs. (The leaflet—Thinking of using legal services—is available in 10 community languages and available in a shortened form.)

The SRA's positive actions identified in the report include:

  • having a specific area of its website targeted at consumers
  • letting consumers know in simple terms what to expect from their lawyer - and what to do if something goes wrong
  • providing clear information about complaints handling, including signposting to the Legal Ombudsman
  • working with other legal regulators to develop a public services network – Legal Voices - to be launched in 2013
  • launching a new package of research that aims to improve experiences and access to legal services for consumers who are vulnerable and in need of support
  • publishing details of disciplinary decisions
  • proactively seeking to engage with vulnerable consumers to improve access to information on legal services
  • making efforts to ensure that compliance is not achieved by just providing information to consumers but ensuring they understand.

The Consumer Panel said it found encouraging that the SRA, Bar Standards Board (BSB), Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) and ILEX Professional Standards (IPS), all plan to increase their consumer engagement activity over the next period.

The report also recommended that the approved regulators should work with third sector providers such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and Money Advice Service; open up data about regulatory performance and their professional registers; and ensure comparison sites support consumers in choosing and using legal services.

Mehrunnisa Lalani, Director of Inclusion at the SRA, said: "We were interested to read the discussion paper and the points raised by the Legal Services Consumer Panel, and pleased that the efforts we are making to empower consumers have been recognised.

"We are already working with the Citizens Advice Bureau to ensure that the information on legal services being given out is current and as comprehensive as possible and are hoping to strengthen this co-operation in the future. We have also initiated meetings with comparison website providers which was mutually beneficial.

"While we're proud of the achievements to date, we recognise there are areas where we need to improve, and our consumer affairs strategy is developing continuously to that end.”

Background information:

*The Consumer Panel's top ten themes are:

  • Adopt a strategic approach towards consumer empowerment
  • Ensure there is adequate generic information provision
  • Make it easier for consumers to understand their rights
  • Create incentives for consumers to take a more active role
  • Draw on insights form behavioural economics
  • Open up data about regulatory performance
  • Share data on open access platforms
  • Strengthen choice tools so that consumers can trust them
  • Make careful use of information remedies
  • Take targeted action to empower vulnerable consumers
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