The SRA has made a ‘noticeable improvement’ in the standard of responses to complaints about its service, an independent watchdog has confirmed.
The Independent Complaint Resolution Service (ICRS) said 95 cases were received during 2013, with 85 complaints from consumers and 11 from solicitors.
The overall volume of complaints increased by 18% compared with 2012, although only 15 complaints (18.75%) were upheld either fully or partially.
The ICRS review comes a year after the organisation noted a significant improvement in complaints-handling.
ICRS partner Jodi Berg said analysts were ‘impressed’ by the SRA’s commitment to high standards of customer service, although practical realities sometimes created a ‘somewhat inflexible approach’ to service.
‘There are still times when a rather bureaucratic approach affects the quality of customer service,’ added Berg.
‘However, we have also seen a considerable improvement in the SRA’s communication when responding to complaints.’
The report said some consumers and solicitors are unsure of the scope of the service and its limitations: it cannot interfere in a regulatory process or take action against a solicitor.
The proportion of complaints from solicitors has dropped from 25% since 2012, with just 12% coming from the legal profession.
Of the solicitors that did complain, most issues related to regulatory action or problems with the SRA’s online registration. None concerned bias or discrimination on the part of the SRA.
Over the course of last year, the ICRS closed 109 cases without any need for investigation and investigated 65, of which 81% were not upheld.
The review says improvements can be made in providing clarity, restricting the use of standard wording in responses to complainants, and offering better access to the SRA.
Mehrunnisa Lalani, the SRA’s director of inclusion said: ‘We are pleased that the ICRS has recognised the improvements the SRA has made in the way it handles complaints. We have taken the recommendations on board making improvements to our website, policies and standard letters.
‘Moving forward, we will be looking more closely at the themes arising overall and in particular we will focus further on communication with our stakeholders’
The ICRS, appointed by the SRA in 2010 to provide a final independent response to individual complaints and oversee its complaints-handling, costs the SRA £75,000 a year.
The report was included in the SRA chief executive report published in advance of its board meeting tomorrow.