Law firms must now publish details on the cost of their services to make it easier for consumers to shop around.

Regulated law firms must publish the prices they charge for conveyancing as part of a move to make their fees more transparent.

From December 6, firms must list on their websites the total cost of their services, the basis of the charges, and the services included in the price at key stages, as well as any likely additional costs, such as VAT.

The move, which not only applies to residential conveyancing but also a range of other areas including probate, road traffic offences and employment tribunals, aims to put an end to consumers being stung by unexpected charges.

The change comes as research found that nearly a third of people were hit with unexpected fees when buying a property, with these averaging just over £8,000.

Why is this happening?

The change is being brought in by the Legal Services Board at the request of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in a bid to improve the transparency of solicitors’ fees.

The SRA argues that consumers should be given the information to enable them to compare the cost of different providers and chose the one that best meets their needs.

It is hoped that over the longer term the move will promote competition between firms and improve people’s access to solicitors.

The Competition and Markets Authority called for transparency to be improved following its 2016 review of the sector.

Above: Two-bedroom terraced house for sale in Kew, Surrey

Who does it affect?

The move is good news for home movers, around one in three of whom claim to have been stung with unexpected fees and charges during the conveyancing process.

It will also enable people to compare the market for the best deal more easily. Research carried out by the SRA found that only 27% of people shopped around before engaging a solicitor, partly because only one in five law firms published details on their fees.

What’s the background?

Research carried out by digital conveyancing platform When You Move found that 31% of people had been hit by unexpected fees during the homebuying process, with these averaging £8,113.

These fees covered additional services such as valuation reports, historical searches, surveys and transaction fees.

As a result of the additional costs, one in five people had to turn to family or friends to lend them the additional money they needed, while nearly a third took the cash out of money they had saved for their deposit.

One in four buyers even said they considered pulling out of their purchase when they discovered the true cost of the fees they faced, but it was too late for them to do so.

A quarter of people also said they felt their solicitor had misled them about the true extent of the fees they would charge for their services.

Top 3 takeaways

  • Regulated law firms must publish the prices they charge for conveyancing as part of a move to make their fees more transparent
  • From December 6, firms must list on their websites the total cost of their services, the basis of the charges, and the services included in the price at key stages, as well as any likely additional costs
  • Nearly a third of people were hit with unexpected fees when buying a property, with these averaging just over £8,000

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