Conveyancing firms removed from the panels of Santander and Lloyds Banking Group could have claims against the lenders, according to legal advice obtained by a Hertfordshire firm.

Paul Judkins (pictured), a partner at Judkins, has received advice from Philip Coppel QC, of London’s 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, suggesting the lenders have contravened section 18(1) of the Competition Act 1998, known as the Chapter II prohibition.

Coppel says firms ‘may make a complaint to the Office of Fair Trading that the banks are engaging in conduct which amounts to the abuse of a dominant position in a market, which may affect trade in the United Kingdom’.

Breach of that Chapter II prohibition may underpin a High Court claim for injunctive relief to reinstate the firms and an action for damages, says Coppel. Firms may also have a claim against the lenders for breach of contract, he said.

Judkins is looking for financial support from other firms to enable him to pursue an action for redress against the lenders.

His two-partner firm, which has offices in Hertford and Cheshunt, was removed from the Santander and Lloyds panels in August 2010, but was reinstated to the Lloyds panel.

He says the lenders’ policies are ‘shrouded in secrecy’ and suggests their actions could be the first step towards entering the conveyancing market.

Whatever the background, Judkins says the policies in relation to panels restrict client choice and cause financial loss to firms.

He said: ‘It’s regrettable to have to litigate, but we can’t continue to lose any more money or clients. We have clients who want to instruct us, but can’t, and our client base is being destroyed.

‘I feel solicitors have to put their hands in their pockets to get this issue resolved.’

Neither Santander nor Lloyds Banking Group would comment on the advice because of the prospect of legal action.

But a Santander spokesman said: ‘Santander works hard to ensure it provides customers with a choice of which solicitor they use for conveyancing. This means maintaining a panel with good coverage throughout the UK. Any firm can apply to become a member of the Santander panel.’