An antitrust quango interrogates the law in search of restrictive practices, cheered on by a self-styled government of ‘working people’ keen to liberate modish entrepreneurship.
For the Office of Fair Trading and Charlie Falconer, read the Competition and Markets Authority and Michael Gove.
In one of the world’s most liberal markets, the CMA’s initiative is oddly timed. The post-Clementi shakeup is still young and the government will soon consult on its own review of regulation.
And competition? England and Wales has thousands of legal services providers, regulated and unregulated, offering services face-to-face, virtually, fixed-fee and unbundled. You can even try DIY.
Barriers to entry have largely gone. A legal business can tap private equity or even float. Satisfaction levels are high and complaints low and falling – at least for closely regulated solicitors.
But there is clunking irony here, too, as the LCJ (pictured) laments that justice is now out of reach for most people. Rocketing court and tribunal fees; irrecoverability of costs; huge chunks taken out of the scope of public funding; another attack on PI victims’ rights at the behest of the insurance lobby. Could all this have something to do with it?
The elephant in the room is hidden in plain sight. Justice is ‘unaffordable’ because, too often, governments care only for its price and not its value.