The Solicitors Regulation Authority is pushing the idea of a ‘no enforcement tool’ to overlook minor rule breaches in the name of innovation.
In a consultation published today, the regulator says waivers could be extended where firms have come up with innovations that are a technical breach of current rules.
Existing or new firms would apply to the SRA for rule waivers and be required to show consumers are still adequately protected, and that the proposal is developed enough to start. A handful of waivers are already granted each year but the proposals attempt to define and expand the policy.
The SRA said waivers are expected to happen on a ‘rare few occasions in relatively limited situations’, but where they do the firms will be guaranteed they will not face enforcement action. Details of which applications have been successful would be published online.
SRA chief executive Paul Philip said: ‘By simplifying how we waive rules, and going even further in our Innovation Space, we have the potential to help forward-thinking firms to thrive, as well as provide real public benefit from new services and greater competition.’
The SRA says a ‘no enforcement tool’ already operates within the Financial Conduct Authority and Civil Aviation Authority, which has allowed Amazon to test the use of drones for parcel delivery, despite this being against the rules.
The regulator says general counsel would review all applications for waivers four times a year. A further annual review would also be published including detail of waivers granted for firms in the Innovation Space and any that were not deemed appropriate.
The regulator created SRA Innovate, a collection of resources and access to advice to help firms who want to innovate, earlier this year.
It already receives between 100 and 150 applications each year for waivers from certain requirements in the handbook. Six out of ten 10 have been granted.
The expanded policy of no enforcement areas aims to strike the right balance between reducing regulatory burdens and making sure the public are protected.
‘Overall, we expect our proposals to contribute towards a more competitive market, which is better placed to innovate and respond to the needs of different groups of users – including vulnerable consumers,’ the regulator added.
Interested parties have until 8 March to respond to the consultation, which can be accessed here.