Personal injury lawyers have warned that Solicitors Regulation Authority plans to remove a ban on cold calling will only encourage the shadier elements of the profession.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) said some solicitors would be liable to contact people without their permission if rules are relaxed.
The SRA currently has a specific regulation preventing solicitors making unsolicited approaches in person by telephone to members of the public.
As part of plans to drastically slim down the handbook, that rule has disappeared from the draft code of conduct.
‘Most solicitors would not dream of cold calling but we must legislate for those who would,' said Neil Sugarman, president of APIL, which has campaigned for a total ban on cold calling across the claims sector.
‘We are currently in the middle of an epidemic of cold calling for personal injury claims which exploits vulnerable people.
‘We at APIL have consistently called for claims management companies to be banned from cold calling for personal injury, in order to raise the bar to reflect what – quite rightly - is expected of solicitors. We need to do more – not less – to get rid of the scourge of cold calling for personal injury.’
APIL was joined in its call this week by claims management company National Accident Helpline, which predicted members of the public will be ‘bombarded’ with calls as a result of the handbook changes.
Managing director Simon Trott, a founding member of the ethical marketing charter, said the proposals ‘significantly water down’ consumer protections.
‘This opens consumers up to receiving thousands of unsolicited calls from law firms – undermining the considerable progress that has been made by government and regulators in this area and putting the reputation of the legal sector at risk.’
A spokesman for the SRA said it welcomes all views on the handbook proposals and urged anyone else with a response to submit it by 21 September. The spokesperson added: ‘This is an open consultation and we welcome all views. To clarify, the government’s position on dealing with the problem of cold calling in the personal injury sector is clear. We have no intention of lifting the ban for solicitors working in personal injury and will make that clear in the final codes.’