New rules that will make it harder to complain about solicitors will be in place from April 2023, the legal ombudsman has announced.

As of 1 April, complainants will have one year from the date of the complained-of activity to lodge a complaint, although it will have discretion to extend this limit if 'fair and reasonable'. The current window for raising a complaint is six years. 

The ombudsman said in a statement that law firms will be expected to convey this information to clients in the coming months.

Another new rule is that the ombudsman can consider whether it is a proportionate use of resource and time to investigate a complaint, where it is deemed that the detriment to the complainant is not significant.

Cases may be dismissed if the loss, detriment, or impact is deemed minor enough that it would be disproportionate to conduct a full investigation.

The ombudsman will also be able to throw out a case if it is too big or complex to be proportionately investigated. This rule will apply to a very small proportion of cases, the ombudsman said, and then only to those where it is considered disproportionate, unreasonable or even impossible for it to investigate. The organisation will publish guidance on the circumstances in which this rule can be applied.

As of April, complainants will also not be able to add new issues to an ongoing investigation if they were already known to the complainant at the time the investigation started. This will ensure that once an investigation has commenced, all parties have certainty as to the issues that have been raised, whilst also making sure that parties cannot deliberately protract or delay investigations by seeking to add extra grounds to the scope of the original complaint.

Further guidance will be published before the new rules come into effect, the ombudsman said.


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