About 2,500 firms have been axed from Lloyds Banking Group’s conveyancing panel in its recent cull, the Law Society has estimated.
Over the last month the group, which includes Lloyds TSB, Halifax, Bank of Scotland and Birmingham Midshires, has reviewed its panel membership to remove firms that have conducted a low volume of transactions over the past 12 months.
High street solicitors have claimed the new minimum volume threshold restricts client choice and gives an unfair advantage to bigger firms.
Stephen Denham, senior partner at Guildford firm Denhams, said: ‘The policy discriminates on the basis of size. The group is not seeking to weed out firms that have caused them problems in the past. It gives an unfair advantage to large volume firms, which are less convenient for clients than high street firms.’
Law Society president Linda Lee said the group’s policy went against the interests of the profession, the economy and consumers. She said: ‘For large, powerful banks, some of which have been propped up by taxpayer money, to exclude small businesses in this way is neither in the interests of economic recovery or the public.’
Law Society property spokesman Paul Marsh said: ‘We’re in discussions with [Lloyds] and working hard to get them to review their policy, to put a proper appeals process in place and to explain their strategy to us.’
Marsh added that firms which have been removed from the panel should also promote to clients the advantages of having separate representation from the lender.
A spokeswoman for the group said it does not disclose details of panel membership, in common with other lenders. She could not confirm the size of the current panel or the number of firms removed.
The spokeswoman said the minimum transaction threshold was a ‘reasonable figure’ and would only affect firms that worked with the group on a ‘rare basis’.
She added: ‘What we’re doing is creating a level playing field. The same criterion is applied to all firms – they must do a certain level of work with the group and work with us on a regular basis so they are familiar with our practices.
‘We’re looking to make sure there’s a geographical representation so customers have access to a solicitor on the panel. We’re not doing this to reduce customer choice.’