The Competition and Markets Authority has launched a market study into legal services in England and Wales to see if they are working well for small businesses and consumers.
The CMA is to examine long-standing concerns about the affordability of legal services and standards of service. Concerns have also been raised about the complexity of the current regulatory framework.
The study will focus on three key issues:
- Whether customers can drive effective competition by making informed purchasing decisions;
- Whether customers are adequately protected from potential harm or can obtain satisfactory redress if legal services go wrong;
- How regulation and the regulatory framework impact on competition for the supply of legal services.
The CMA's senior director, Rachel Merelie, said: "Whether it's buying a property, resolving disputes or getting expert advice on financial and employment matters, it's vitally important that consumers and small businesses can access the legal advice and representation they need. They also need to secure value for money and quality when purchasing these services. These are all areas that can have a major impact - both personally and financially - on the lives of individuals and on the success of small businesses."
According to the Legal Services Consumer Panel's Tracker Survey 2015, for the Legal Services Board, only 13% of small businesses said they viewed lawyers as cost-effective and around half agreed that they used legal service providers as a "last resort" to solve business problems.
Commenting on the announcement, Neil Buckley, chief executive of the Legal Services Board, said: "This decision reflects long-standing concerns about both the affordability and quality of legal services on offer. A major problem in legal services is that a large proportion of the population and small businesses cannot afford such critical services."
Small businesses that that want to provide feedback for the study should email: [email protected] by 3 February 2016.