Legal services industry faces competition inquiry

Gavel Image copyright Thinkstock

Legal services - used during house purchases and disputes - are to be put under the microscope by the UK's competition authority.

The study, by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), will consider whether clients are receiving value for money and can shop around.

The CMA will concentrate on services in England and Wales, and the criminal services sector will be excluded..

The legal services sector has an estimated turnover of £30bn.

It includes advice on commercial law, employment law, family law, conveyancing, immigration, wills and probate and personal injury.

The CMA must announce within six months whether it intends to refer the market for a more in-depth investigation.

"We would be concerned if customers are not getting a good deal, either because they do not know what to expect when purchasing a legal service, or because they are not seeking appropriate legal support in the first place," said Rachel Merelie, senior director at the CMA.

"We want to see if some customers end up paying more than they expected or receive a poor service. We also think there may be questions over the redress available if this does happen."

The Law Society, which represents solicitors, said that regulation was key to competition in the sector. It promised to share insight and research into the CMA review.

"We know that the market for legal services is not fair as solicitors, who are heavily regulated, are having to compete with unregulated providers," said chief executive Catherine Dixon.

"Solicitors are trained, qualified, regulated, required to carry insurance and have professional standards.

"Legal services provide a significant contribution to the UK economy. It is fundamental that competition across the provision of all legal services is fair if market confidence is to be maintained."

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites