A claims management company has been banned from repeating an advertisement accusing solicitors of overcharging by 20%.

The regional press ad was run on behalf of Recovery Ltd, trading as recoveryourovercharges.com. It highlighted the ‘top 5 ways your solicitor rips you off’ and said it could help people to get back the sums overcharged. The website added: ‘The amount solicitors are supposed to charge for their services are [sic] covered by legislation - but in reality many ignore these guidelines… Discover the tricks law firms use to get extra from you.’ 

A complaint from Hertford firm Martin Shepherd Solicitors LLP questioned if the claims could be substantiated and asked whether they were misleading. The Advertising Standards Authority today upheld that complaint and ruled the ad must not appear again in its current form.

The ASA considered that the 20% claim suggested solicitors add fees on without justification.  Recovery Ltd had said a ‘one-fifth’ rule existed and meant a law costs draft company could only recover their fees from solicitors if they recovered one-fifth or more of their client’s legal costs. Without solicitors overcharging, it argued,  the law costs industry ‘would no longer exist’. 

The company went on to argue solicitors did not always advise clients they were entitled to an assessment of their costs when the client was invoiced, adding: ‘This advice was not provided because it would prohibit law costs draft companies acting against a solicitor they had worked with’.

The ASA found no evidence to back up Recovery’s claim of solicitors overcharging by an average of 20%, even if they might, if necessary, use third party businesses to provide extra services. There was no evidence solicitors ignored their code of conduct or standards concerning fees, and therefore the advert was deemed to be misleading.

Recovery cannot claim in future that solicitors overcharge clients or that they ignore guidance in relation to service charges.