The Law Society has rejected as potentially damaging to clients a watchdog’s call for regulations to force law firms to publish the average cost of services.

Responding to a Legal Services Consumer Panel’s (CMA’s) submission to the Competition and Markets Authority, the Society’s chief executive, Catherine Dixon, said that the proposal for regulations specifying what firms should publish is misconceived.

‘A narrow focus on price - especially average price which could be particularly misleading - is potentially damaging to clients’ ability to make informed choices,’ she said.

‘Publishing average prices in areas of work where there are multiple variables affecting the actual costs would be confusing and in many cases meaningless.’

The proposal appeared in the consumer panel’s response to the competition watchdog’s interim report on the legal services market, which focused on the amount of information available to individual consumers and small businesses. 

Dixon said that the Society agreed that the market would benefit from the provision of more useful information on prices and the quality of service. This should include clarity about the protections available to the clients of regulated firms.

However she said that compulsion was the wrong way to achieve this.

‘We are confident that the legal services market, which is very competitive, will deliver ever more beneficial and durable improvements than further regulation, which would also create the risk of unintended consequences.’

She added: ‘We will work with the CMA and the profession to support solicitors to provide ever more relevant information to their clients, through our online Find a Solicitor search engine as well as by developing and disseminating best practice guidance for solicitors on providing accessible and appropriate information on price and quality of service.

‘This will support solicitors and help clients to make informed decisions about the legal services they buy.’