No doubt you will have heard of the SRA’s plans requiring firms to publish details of their prices. It stems from the SRA’s ‘Better Information’ consultation and following approval from the Legal Services Board, the first wave of changes will come into force on the 1st December 2018.
The SRA has promised further guidance on the requirements and how to comply with them, but with less than 12 weeks to go, firms need to start planning what they need to do. We thought it would be useful to address some of the questions firms may have.
Do I need to publish the prices for all types of work?
No. The changes for 1st December will cover the following services:
- For the public: conveyancing, probate, motoring offences, employment tribunals (claims for unfair or wrongful dismissal) and immigration (excluding asylum).
- For small businesses: debt recovery (up to £100k), employment tribunals (defending claims for unfair or wrongful dismissal) and licensing applications for business premises.
If you do a mixture of work, or if you feel that price publication can help your business, you may want to publicise details on all your services. Almost certainly the SRA will be adding new categories of services in due course.
We often don’t know the overall likely cost of a matter; how can we therefore publish prices?
The SRA received a lot of feedback along these lines when consulting on the proposed changes. This is something that we expect more guidance on, in the meantime the SRA state:
‘Firms who do not know the total cost of a service can provide the information they do know, for example the average cost or range of costs. Firms will also be required to make clear what the price given on their website includes and does not include’
What information will we need to provide?
The SRA has published draft guidance on the price publication which you can find here. Particularly helpful are the principles of price publications which are:
- Whichever way prices are shown, the total cost should be shown where practicable. this must include disbursements and VAT.
- Appropriate instant online quote generators can be used to provide price transparency.
- However, where it is not practicable to give overall costs at the beginning, any costs that are known such as hourly rates, fixed fees for certain elements, the charging basis for any unbundled services etc should be stated. It will be good practice to list factors that could increase or decrease overall costs.
- The cost of likely or typical disbursements should be stated, together with a brief description of what the disbursement covers (if this is not obvious from the name of the disbursements). Where it is not practicable to give precise costs of disbursements at this stage (e.g. experts reports) then the type of disbursement should be described and a range of costs provided where this is practicable’
- Any likely exceptions to the prices shown should be explained
- Where charges will attract VAT this must be stated