CMA To Review Unregulated Will-Writing Amid Concerns Over Costs And Protecting Vulnerable Customers
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced that it is to review unregulated will writing and pre-paid probate services as it shared concerns that some providers may not be complying with consumer protection law.
The CMA has said that there are many alternatives to the conventional law firms for consumers in relation to will-writing and other unreserved services – and that although they are often cheaper, where they are unregulated there are concerns about the normal consumer protection being complied with.
The regulator said there were three main areas of concern involving potential risk to customers and possible breaches of consumer protection law: will writing, pre-paid probate, and online divorce.
In terms of will-writing potential problems include: misleading advertising offering low initial fees for advice but does not indicate that final costs can increase significantly, potentially unfair contract terms, and reports of pressure selling to vulnerable customers.
While there were also concerns with pre-paid probate such as: pressure selling techniques being used on elderly and other vulnerable people, a lack of transparency about costs and a lack of awareness that customers money may not be adequately protected, even if held in trust.
The CMA has asked anyone with experience of consumers having issues with these services to respond by 4th September.
Expert Opinion“I welcome the review as consumers in these markets are often not equipped with the right information before they make purchasing decisions – which often come at critical points in their lives – getting expert advice from solicitors who offer exceptional service to clients as a consequence of rigorous training and years of experience is key to a competitive legal market and can only increase consumers’ confidence and engagement in the legal services market.
“It is important that the CMA is mindful that there are and will always be good unregulated advisers out there, and the detriment to the consumer tends to come from a handful of unregulated or inexperienced advisors.
“Solicitors will also always have insurance to protect clients if mistakes are made, which unregulated advisers often don’t. The CMA will have to balance the needs of the consumers to access a wide range of providers, at a wide range of fees but giving them the public enough legal education for the consumer to decide which level of service it wants, but protecting from the harm that the minority unregulated advisers and products can bring.” Ian Bond - Partner