Members of the public have received letters from Wonga and the Student Loans Company that have the appearance of letters from a law firm. Many non-solicitors will wonder what the problem is. The letters presumably concern money the recipient owes.

It is well known that there are law firms with debt collection practices whose own letters to clients do not feel qualitatively different. Does one really need to be an officer of the Supreme Court to do a mail merge letter and put it in the post?

The most serious problem is not with the contents of the letters, but in the near-total lack of recourse available to the recipient where the letter, or threats issued in it, are not in order. Two big principles have been held to direct public policy on the provision of legal services – the need to encourage greater competition and the need to protect the public.

And, of course, solicitors pay dearly to secure the latter benefit.

People have a right to know who they are dealing with – they are well advised to demand ID from someone who has come to read their gas meter, a precaution that protects them from crime. Viewed this way, the token compensation Wonga must pay is wholly inadequate – its attempts to deceive are very serious indeed.