The consumer watchdog for the legal sector has expressed its disappointment at the reluctance of some regulators to publish more complaints data.
The Legal Services Consumer Panel has praised the Solicitors Regulation Authority for undertaking to publish aggregated complaints data but said the profession overall must do more to give consumers information about the service quality they can expect.
In its annual report for 2019, the panel urged the Legal Ombudsman to proceed with its review of how best to publish decisions in full. The report said an external expert had reported at a recent roundtable event that transparency from an ombudsman, particularly on upheld decisions, was potentially the most useful information for consumers.
But apart from the SRA and ombudsman, the panel said it had seen 'little movement' on transparency from other legal regulators.
'Our disappointment is compounded by the regulators' resistance to the publication of complaints data. We remain concerned that this area has not been given sufficient consideration.'
It is likely this issue of transparency about complaints data will be brought up with the Competition and Markets Authority, which will return next year to assess how its recommendations from the last review of the legal sector have been implemented.
The panel said it wants to see a market where consumers find it easier to understand their rights, protections and routes to redress. This should include a better understanding of the whole legal services sector, including what the unregulated sector can offer.
The panel has urged regulators to take responsibility for highlighting the existence and differences between the regulated and unregulated sectors. In this context, the SRA has implemented a new digital badge to be displayed on firms' websites, which will be mandatory from November. But the panel also wants more 'neutral' information about the unregulated sector included on the Legal Choices website, which is jointly run by legal regulators.
In her foreword to the report, panel chair Sarah Chambers added: 'My personal ambition for the coming years is that we make a clear and sustained impact on the behaviour of regulators and providers in this market, putting the needs of consumers, especially vulnerable, at the heart of their work.'
The panel's expenditure for 2018/19 rose marginally to £217,578, which is funded from a levy against the regulated profession.