QCs instructed in major cases would be exempt from publishing prices under plans set out by the Bar Standards Board today, though the regulator has recommended that the new rules go further than originally proposed by the competition watchdog.
Responding to the Competition and Markets Authority’s recommendations to increase transparency for consumers, the BSB said minimum disclosure requirements should apply where barristers undertake referral work where the client is entitled to complain to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO). The CMA initially said price publication should be a requirement only for public access barristers.
The BSB said the extension would involve cases where the clients are ’an individual, some very small companies and charities’. All those barristers whose clients not meet that definition would be exempt from publishing.
In a consultation paper, published today, the regulator proposed that all public access barristers will need to publish the suggested minimum disclosure requirements as a mandatory measure. It adds that barristers potentially practising in certain high-risk areas, could also be required to follow the suggested minimum disclosure requirements. Areas indentified as ‘high-risk’ include immigration, crime and family law.
Today, the Legal Services Board said regulators’ responses to the CMA study suggested that they are ‘collaborating well to make progress on joint initiative and to develop a coherent approach’. Last week, the SRA suggested that firms should publish prices for certain types of work, such as conveyancing, wills or personal injury. An SRA consultation on the scope of publishing requirements runs to 20 December.
The BSB’s consultation paper, discussed during last week’s board meeting, proposes two options for displaying prices.
- Each barrister publishes prices for their three most common type of case;
- Chambers publish information on price ranges, indicative fees for standard work or average fees.
Ewen MacLeod, director of strategy and policy at the BSB, said there ‘must be a balance between improving consumer understanding and genuinely promoting competition on the one hand, and not overburdening barristers and chambers or producing information overload for clients on the other’.
He added: ‘We think that we have outlined an approach that would achieve that balance, but we are open-minded about the best way forward and want to hear views from consumers and from the bar.’
The BSB’s paper is open for consultation until 5 January.