Transparency needed to improve choice for legal services customers

19th Aug 2016

Customer choice is being hampered by a lack of information, research from the Legal Services Consumer Panel shows.

According to the panel’s Legal Services Consumer Tracker 2016 report, there is a clear gap between legal services customers who are confident and knowledgeable and those who are not, with the latter experiencing lower levels of satisfaction and trust. 

The data, collected by the panel over six years, shows that while there has been some progress in the use of fixed fees and improved customer confidence, the pace of change has been slow. 

It reveals that just one in four customers shopped around for a legal service in the last six years, while trust in lawyers has dropped to 42%, after standing at 47% in 2012. Findings from the Institute of Customer Service’s latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index suggest that trust is more significant a factor in customer satisfaction than ever before, with data showing a clear correlation between high levels of trust and superior satisfaction.

The panel’s report also shows that, while reputation is the most important factor when choosing a legal services provider, price, convenience and speed are also key in helping consumers make their choice. 

The report follows the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)’s interim report into the supply of legal services, released last month. The study found that a lack of upfront pricing was primarily to blame for lack of competition within the sector. 

“Over the last six years we’ve seen some positive improvements, but we are at a stage now where we should all expect more,” says Elisabeth Davies, the panel’s chair. “Regulators should be doing more to better equip consumers with the information they need about costs and quality to make informed choices. 

“The recent CMA report highlighted the negative impact of opaque pricing structures and costs across the market, as well as the need to be able to demonstrate quality before purchase. Now is the time for regulators to take stock of what they can do to improve this situation and to commit to taking action. In the absence of effective information, we’re not going to have effective competition.”

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