LeO to invite live chats

Clients offered live chats with ombudsman

LeO offers its ‘live chat’ service from disputes with claims management companies to all legal service providers.

Live chat, which is available at www.legalombudsman.org.uk, coincides with a three-year plan by the ombudsman

to improve the ease of consumers making and resolving complaints. The service runs from 9am to 5pm.

Chief legal ombudsman Kathryn Stone said: ’Modernising our systems with live chat should fit better into people’s busy

lives and make it much easier for consumers to seek support about poor service from the legal industry and get the

advice they need.

People often don’t know where to turn when they have issues with legal providers, but we want them to know that

we are here for them online as well as just a phone call or email away.’

The ombudsman accepted 7,223 legal complaints and 2,290 CMC complaints for investigation in the past financial year.

SRA and LeO to examine how well firms handle complaints

The Solicitors Regulation Authority is turning its attention to how law firms handle complaints, commissioning its first piece of research on how firms’ processes can influence the quality of service clients receive.

The regulator announced today that the £50,000 study, jointly funded with the Legal Ombudsman, will examine if there are any issues to consider about the effectiveness of firms’ complaints processes.

The regulator said it wants to understand firms’ approaches to dealing with complaints and understand any barriers they face to handling complaints well.

Examples of good and poor practice will be highlighted. The regulator also wants to ’gain a consumer perspective’ on firms’ complaints handling.

Last year oversight regulator the Legal Services Board published updated complaints guidance for regulators.

The board, in a decision document published in July, said a review in 2015/16 suggested complaints-handling processes were not achieving the desired outcomes. ’While data shows improvements in complaints handling with some [approved regulators], other data shows that the number of “silent sufferers” remains high – those that know how to complain, but are unwilling, due to a lack of confidence that the profession will resolve their complaints,’ the board added.

The SRA’s latest research is part of its 2016/17 research programme.

According to an SRA board paper published in December, previous research exploring consumer experiences of using asylum and family legal services found that some consumers ’lacked awareness of the availability of redress and that there is a misconception that pursuing redress will have an adverse impact on the outcome of their case’.

Research companies London Economics and YouGov have been commissioned to conduct the latest research, which will involve speaking to firms and members of the public.

The research has been budgeted to cost between £50,000 and £55,000, including VAT.

Office for Legal Complaints seek new head

A new head of the body that handles complaints about lawyers will be in place by the end of March next year, the profession’s umbrella watchdog said on Friday.

The Legal Services Board kicked off a recruitment process to replace Steve Green, who finishes his five-year term as chairman of the Office for Legal Complaints on March 31 next year.

The office oversees the chief legal ombudsman, a post that has been racked by controversy. A year ago Adam Sampson was embroiled in a row with the Ministry of Justice over the circumstances of his departure. Sampson forced the Office for Legal Complaints to retract a statement that he had been sacked over irregularities over his expenses, and said that he had in fact resigned and served his notice period

LeO to adopt ADR model

Complaints watchdog to move to alternative dispute model

Alternative dispute resolution methods should be used more widely to resolve arguments between clients and their lawyers, the legal profession complaints watchdog has said.

The Legal Ombudsman’s office announced that it “will be reviewing our options later this year” in relation to ADR”. In a strategy paperreleased in the past few days, it said that this year it would consider dusting off its application to become an official approved entity under the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations. The ombudsman’s office postponed its application in 2015.

Complaints handling guidance from LSB for SRA and BSB

The Legal Services Board (LSB) is set to instruct the frontline regulators like the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board to get tough with lawyers who do not handle client complaints properly.

Firms should gather data on first-tier complaints-handling processes and also analyse data from LeO on complaints that then reach it.“This analysis can provide approved regulators with an evidence base to develop regulatory responses to improve outcomes for clients.

These may include:

  • supervisory interventions for authorised persons to improve complaints-handling procedures;
  • thematic reviews of recurring issues, which may result in changes to approved regulators’ regulatory arrangements for complaints handling,
  • supporting policies and guidance; and
  • promoting best practice observed during data analysis.”

The draft guidance also urges the regulators to share their work with each other to reduce “poor practice” across the legal market. The LSB has published a consultation document

Office for Legal Complaints appoints new chief ombudsman

The Office for Legal Complaints has appointed a police regulator and former justice charity boss to the new standalone post of chief ombudsman.

Kathryn Stone will join the organisation in January from her current post as a commissioner for the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Law Gazette

LeO’s application ADR approved body

Legal Ombudsman’s (LeO) application to the Legal Services Board (LSB) to become certified as an ADR approved body for the purposes of the ADR Directive has been withdrawn.

EU Directive on consumer alternative dispute resolution (ADR Directive)

Solicitors must comply by 1 October 2015 with the ADR Directive.

Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s approved list Trading Standards approved list

Advice from Law Society

Law Society response

LeO Proposed changes to the Scheme Rules

LeO Proposed changes to the Scheme Rules

 

This will affect Scheme Rules 4.4a, 4.4b, 4.5, 4.6 and 5.7 in particular. Full details will be included in the consultation document.

Background to the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Directive and Regulations2

The EU published a Directive on ADR in May 2013. The requirements of the Directive come into force in UK law through Regulations made under the European Communities Act 1972.

The purpose of the Directive is to:

  •   Ensure that all consumers in the EU have access to an ADR scheme to seek redress when they have experienced problems with goods and services that they have purchased;
  •   Set some common quality standards for ADR providers, for example, in relation to how quickly complaints are dealt with; and
  •   To reduce consumer confusion.

    In January 2016 these regulations will be supplemented by the requirements for Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), which will provide amongst other things for an online platform to signpost consumers through to the correct ADR body, and to facilitate cross-border disputes.