The Legal Ombudsman today proposes creating a common portal for all complaints about professional services to remove ‘grey areas’ between them.
The legal complaints handler set out in a new discussion paper ways to make it clearer to consumers how they should seek redress.
The paper invites comment from consumer groups and professional bodies after research found thousands of people who use legal services every year are unable to complain to the Legal Ombudsman (LeO).
A common portal to assist consumers, with fewer professional ombudsman schemes overall, would make it easier ways for consumer complaints to be resolved, the paper says.
Elizabeth France, chair of the Legal Ombudsman board, said buying legal advice is ‘to some extent a lottery’ for consumers who are confused about which way to turn.
‘The time is right to start a focused debate on how to create a system that is accessible, transparent, effective and efficient both for consumers and businesses,’ said France. ‘That system should not be constrained by traditional views of the boundaries to legal services we are seeking more overlaps with other areas and professions.’
The Legal Ombudsman said it is concerned that 130,000 service providers in England and Wales are operating outside the regulated domain in what has been labeled the alternative legal market. These include roles in accountancy, architecture and probate.
A report published alongside the discussion paper says that people buying wills or receiving advice on immigration and employment issues, building plans and debt management as well as those using DIY legal documents are at risk of falling outside the LeO’s domain.
The ombudsman wants to create a voluntary system for service providers to sign up, although it is unclear how many would be keen to expose themselves to redress from the complaints service.