The Bar Standards Board (“BSB”), which regulates barristers and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales has issued a policy consultation focused on the recommendations of the Competition & Market Authority (CMA) issued in December 2016.
The recommendations of the CMA included inter alia delivering a ‘step change’ in transparency with the overall aim of improving consumer understanding, to facilitate “shopping around” and ultimately driving competition.
The proposals contained in the BSB consultation include:
- new price transparency requirements on the more standardised services provided by Public Access barristers;
- working closely with Specialist Bar Associations to develop guidance for barristers providing these services;
- consideration as to whether all chambers’ websites should be required to state their most commonly used pricing models and that professional and/or lay clients (as appropriate) may contact chambers to obtain a quote;
- requiring all chambers’ websites to state the areas of law in which they most commonly provide services;
- requiring all chambers’ websites to display a BSB logo, the text “barristers regulated by the Bar Standards Board” and information about any right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman.
The BSB has agreed not to impose disclosure requirements in relation to hourly rates and fixed fees on barristers undertaking work referred by solicitors. However, the regulator’s view is that all barristers should be required to meet minimum transparency standards in relation to service and redress.
Following a further rule change consultation planned for later this year and approval by the Legal Services Board (LSB), these transparency requirements will come into force by May 2019. However, the BSB is not proposing to make compliance with any fee transparency requirements mandatory until early 2020. The effectiveness of the new requirements rules will be evaluated from December 2020.