Majority of solicitors refuse to take part in fees survey
Published 10/02/2012 | 05:00
ONLY one in five solicitors who were asked about their fees responded to a nationwide price survey by the National Consumer Agency.
Just 65 out of 329 legal firms replied to the NCA, which was seeking to price the average cost of buying or selling a house and making a will.
The low response rate from solicitors differed vastly from previous NCA price surveys carried out on other groups of professionals, including opticians, doctors, dentists, driving instructors and home heating oil providers.
More than eight out of 10 opticians responded to a similar survey published last year.
"It was harder than it should have been to get quotes in the first place," said Fergal O'Leary, the NCA's assistant director of research.
"This means that it is harder for consumers to take advantage of the competition and price variations that do exist for what are straightforward legal services. It should be easier for consumers to get quotes from solicitors."
Although the poll sample was small, the NCA recorded vast price differences between those solicitors who did respond.
Only one solicitor displayed prices at their firm and none of those with websites displayed their prices online.
The NCA said there should be a legal requirement for all lawyers to publish fees for their basic or standard services.
It has written to the Law Society, the ruling body for solicitors, and Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
As a solicitor, Mr Shatter, who also acted as counsel for clients in court hearings, charged some clients an hourly rate of some €635, including VAT in 2007, at the height of the boom, according to engagement letters seen by the Irish Independent.
The new law aims to provide for greater transparency for legal costs and a new system for consumers to dispute legal costs. In future, all solicitors and barristers will have to provide consumers with a notice of likely costs.
Prices for the conveyance on a €220,000 semi-detached house in a housing estate varied from as low as €750 up to €4,000, with the national average -- based on 64 such quotes -- coming in at €1,302.
The average fee reported to the NCA for making a will was €119. The lowest price surveyed was €50, with the highest coming in at €300. Two solicitors reported that they did not charge for making a will.
The national average fee reported by the 65 solicitors for a Grant of Probate, putting the contents of a will of someone who has died into effect, was €2,767. The lowest price quoted was €950 and the highest was €6,150 -- a difference of €5,200.
The scenarios posed by the NCA assumed that there would be no "unforeseen" issues.