29-07-2011

Will Writers 'Rip off thousands every year'

Chief ombudsman Adam Sampson called on the government to take urgent action to make sure consumers are not left confused and vulnerable by unregulated companies.

The consumer organisation Which? and the Law Society backed the claims and called for more protection for customers.

They said the increased bundling of legal services with financial services and other products, including more being offered via the internet, posed serious dangers for consumer protection.

The ombudsman said that since becoming operational late last year his office had been contacted by 38,155 people and had accepted 3,768 cases for investigation. One in five cases involved conveyancing, 19% were about family law and 13% involved will writing.

Sampson said: "One service which crops up a lot is will writing. It is 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.

"We have seen similar confusion about claims management companies, with lots believing they are getting a legal service even though most of the work is carried out by a non-authorised person. Again, we can't help."

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: "As the legal services market continues to grow in both size and complexity, it is crucial that consumers who have paid for a legal service that is not up to scratch know where to turn to get help.

"We want the government and regulators to wake up to the current lack of clarity and to provide a clear and straightforward route of redress for consumers.

"The arrival of a legal services market in which consumers will, potentially, have complaints about 'hybrid' services poses some serious questions about who they will be able to turn to for help.