As part of the recently launched Teal Compliance Officer Training Programme, I ran a webinar session running through all the requirements in relation to Price Transparency and the impact it is having on firms.
The first thing I would say is that the new rules create a market of opportunity on which you can take stock and look at your pricing structure, how you price and the services you offer to your clients. The stated aim of the new rules is to provide good quality information to potential and existing consumers to enable them to make the best decision for the type of service they require and within their budgets.
A lot of firms are focusing on the perceived negative impact, e.g. that it is “big brother” or that other competitors will undercut their fees and poach clients. But by focusing on that firms risk missing opportunities. The research which was commissioned in 2016 by the Competition & Market’s Authority (“CMA”) concluded that generally speaking there is insufficient information available to consumers and small business, in relation to the price, range and quality of legal services on offer. This was particularly evident in relation to the conveyancing market.
The majority of consumers looking for legal services said that if better information about price, quality and range of legal services was available online that would help them in making a decision as to which firm to approach.
Consumers also said that firms with a “digital badge” displayed on their website, would give them greater confidence about the services on offer and could in fact be the deciding factor on whether or not to use a firm.
To recap on what is required under the new rules:
I have done some of my own research looking at how firms have improved price transparency on their websites. Some firms have absolutely got it spot on, however I have to say I am quite surprised by the number of firms who are not yet publishing transparent information and those whose attempts to be compliant have fallen short of what is required. The CLC and SRA have already started to undertake reviews of firms regulated by them. Whether firms want to accept the rules or not, you still have to comply.
If you are not sure how to ensure you are compliant with the new rules, or you just need a sense check then we are here to help, for example by running pricing workshops to give you the opportunity review and update all the services that you charge for.
The new rules are designed to stop those firms who add on the “hidden” costs at the end of a transaction, leaving the client confused, and uncertain as to how they are going to pay for those additional fees. Introducing transparency, guidance on services offered, what is and isn’t included will assist clients in assessing what is right for them from both a personal and financial perspective.
A lot of firms are using online calculators, and these are a great way of providing an estimate where the onus is on the client to provide the correct information. Again, if this information changes you can make it clear the fee may change accordingly. There is evidence to suggest that, particularly in conveyancing, the use of online calculators is assisting in winning business. Some firms have platforms which also automatically send the terms of business letter out, so you could arrive in the office in the morning with new clients already committed to working with you. These are fantastic examples of what you can do to be compliant under the new rules and maximise business potential. What’s not to like?
My top tips for making sure you are up to speed with price transparency include;
use price transparency as an opportunity to revisit your current fee structure and prices
ensure that your website contains all relevant information about the range, quality and price of your services;
obtain and display your digital badge;
communicate and provide training in price transparency to all staff; and
remember to update relevant policies and marketing materials.