House of Cards?

Every one of the 3,000 law firms accredited under the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) must now remove that marketing “badge” from all their material, following criticism from the Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA").

This is how The Law Society described the Scheme:

“The Law Society's Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) provides a recognised quality standard for residential conveyancing practices. Membership establishes a level of credibility for firms with stakeholders such as regulators, lenders and insurers as well as residential homebuyers and sellers.

Since inception in 2011, the CQS has created a trusted community which has helped year on year to deter fraud and continually improve standards across the residential conveyancing sector.”

Most mortgage lenders have insisted that solicitors who want to be on their Panels must be members of the Scheme.

The Law Society has claimed that, to be a member, a solicitors’ firm has undergone “rigorous examination and testing to demonstrate that they have a high level of knowledge, skills, experience and practice”.

The ASA said that this was an exaggeration, given the checks that a firm must undergo to receive the Law Society’s approval. The checks are minimal – but the fees levied by The Law Society on applicants, have been “a nice little earner”. Here is the official Law Society Statement showing how firms must pay to be “accredited”:

Initial assessment and re-accreditation for the Conveyancing Quality Scheme includes an annual application and membership fee. Please do not make payment when submitting your application. On receipt of your application, the amount payable will be determined and an invoice will be sent to the individual applying for accreditation.

Initial accreditation

Application fees for initial accreditation are based on the number of partners at the practice.

And guess who ultimately foots the bill? Well you, the consumer, of course.

The Law Society emailed all CQS members to inform them of the ruling and the need to change their marketing if they repeated the claim.

The Society is also reviewing its marketing for other schemes – its family law accreditation scheme, for example, uses almost exactly the same wording, saying: “Members will have shown that they have and will maintain a high level of knowledge, skills, experience and practice in the area of family law.”

As the fees payable for these “accreditations” are removed will the consumer see a corresponding fall in solicitors’ fees? I wonder…

© November 2017 Hannen Beith

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