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Public prefers to complain about supermarkets and banks than lawyers

LeO chief executive urges ‘silent sufferers’ to exercise their rights

19 July 2017

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Consumers would rather complain about supermarkets, banks, and mobile phone companies than lawyers, a new survey has revealed.

The proportion of consumers dissatisfied with legal services who did not complain has risen to 49 per cent from 35 per cent, according to this year’s Legal Services Consumer Panel’s Tracker Survey 2017.

Respondents said they were more confident about complaining about supermarkets (70 per cent), banks (55 per cent) and mobile phone companies (51 per cent), than lawyers (44 per cent).

‘It is important that all members of the public, from whatever background, know they have access to justice and can complain about poor service through the Legal Ombudsman’, chief legal ombudsman Kathryn Stone (pictured) said. ‘It is disappointing to see that people seem to have more confidence in complaining about poor service in supermarkets, banks and mobile phone companies than legal services.’

People from a higher social grade were found to be more confident in complaining about a lawyer (ABC1, 48 per cent) than those from a lower social grade (C2DE, 35 per cent).

The survey showed the majority of the public (65 per cent) were aware of the Legal Ombudsman (LeO), which has urged ‘silent sufferers’ to speak up and exercise their legal rights.

Stone said LeO's new strategy focused on 'informing consumers as we want to increase the public’s understanding of how they can exercise their legal rights.’

In 2016, LeO introduced a triage complaints system to help deal with matters in a more streamlined manner. Experienced staff were put at the front of the process to assess the complexity of the complaint and whether it can be dealt with quickly and informally.

Earlier this year, Simon Tunnicliffe, LeO’s head of operations, told Solicitors Journal: ‘By introducing the triage, putting our very experienced people at the front end of the process, it gets the ball rolling much faster and means that when we are ready to investigate it it’s presented as a package ready for investigators to crack on with straight-away.’

Consumer choice

The tracker survey revealed that consumers were satisfied with legal services (80 per cent) and the outcome of their legal matter (83 per cent). Meanwhile, trust in lawyers increased to 45 per cent this year, up from 42 per cent in 2016.

Reputation (75 per cent) and price (69 per cent) remained the most important choice factors for consumers, who once again highlighted the lack of pertinent information available to help them make informed decisions about choosing legal services providers.

While 27 per cent of respondents shopped around, just six per cent found pricing information on providers’ websites, and only two per cent used comparison websites.

Commenting on the survey, Dr Jane Martin, chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, said: ‘The good news is that levels of satisfaction are high for many elements of service delivery. But our concern remains that a satisfactory service may only be available to those who can successfully navigate the sector.

‘Questions should also be asked about readiness to complain when things go wrong. The market appears to be at a standstill in important areas which are crucial for consumers’ decision making and competition. It is clear that there is a need for more information. We will continue to work with the LSB and the other front line regulators in the consumer interest.’

Last month, the Legal Services Board (LSB) proposed new performance barometers for regulators placing an emphasis on, among other things, improving transparency standards in terms of price and service, availability of redress, and comparison of providers.

Matthew Rogers, reporter

matthew.rogers@solicitorsjournal.co.uk | @lex_progress

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