Thousands ‘Ripped Off’ by Unregulated Will Writers
Thousands of people in the UK are being ripped off by companies providing unregulated legal services such as Will writing, claims the first Legal Ombudsman.
Chief Ombudsman Adam Sampson’s first report said the complaints he received were mostly about Wills, conveyancing and family law.
Mr Sampson called for action to be taken to ensure consumers were not left open to abuse by unregulated legal services, as only a tiny fraction of these services must be provided by a qualified solicitor.
Staggeringly, many legal services such as Will writing, divorce, employment and immigration can be done by unqualified and unregulated individuals and organisations.
“One service which crops up a lot is Will writing. It’s a service carried out often by Will writing firms who aren’t regulated. Because of this, customers are left with little means of redress when things go wrong,” said Mr Sampson.
The legal ombudsman was appointed in October 2010 and can only act on complaints from those using the services of qualified lawyers.
Consumer organisation Which? and the Law Society have backed the ombudsman and called for more protection for customers. They said bundling legal services with financial services, including those offered via the internet, had posed serious dangers for consumer protection.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “As the legal-services market continues to grow in both size and complexity, it’s crucial that consumers who have paid for a legal service that’s not up to scratch know where to turn to get help.
Des Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society for England and Wales, said: “The gap in regulation which allows unregulated cowboys to operate in areas like will writing does not just cause unfair competition to solicitors, who provide a regulated, professional service.
“It is also damaging to consumers because the unregulated providers are not insured, do not provide a compensation fund and are not covered by the Legal Ombudsman’s scheme for consumer redress.”
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said will writing was an important issue and that it welcomed the report.
She added the department will await the outcome of the Legal Service Board’s ongoing work.
glossLegal wholeheartedly support this as all our Wills are checked by a qualified solicitor, as well as being a member of the Society of Trust and Estates Practitioners.