Monday 18 December 2017

Call for transparency after survey reveals €5,000 variance in basic solicitor services

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

CONSUMER chiefs have called for greater price transparency in solicitors' fees after a survey revealed a €5,000 difference in basic services.

The National Consumer Agency (NCA) demanded new rules to make firms publish prices and warned customers to try and agree a total fee before hiring a solicitor.

Chief executive Ann Fitzgerald said just 20pc of firms replied to its survey, highlighting the difficulty consumers face in obtaining and comparing quotes for straightforward scenarios.

"While noting that price is only one factor when choosing a solicitor, our advice to consumers requiring legal services is to make a list of their requirements and request quotes based on this list, via telephone or email, from a number of solicitors in their area," she said.

"The benefits of doing so are likely to be considerable."

The NCA revealed it contacted 329 solicitors with questions on fees for a typical conveyancing transaction, on making a will and taking out a grant of probate.

Of just 65 firms that replied:

- Only one solicitor displayed prices, while none of 36 firms with a website published fees online.

- The national average fee for conveyancing was €1,302 - ranging from €750 (in Leinster, outside Dublin) to a high of €4,000 (in Connacht/Ulster).

- Making a will went from €50 to €300, averaging at €119.

- A €5,200 difference was recorded in fees for taking out a grant of probate - which allows the assets of the deceased to be gathered and distributed. The lowest quote of €950 was recorded in Munster, with the highest price of €6,150 found in the Rest of Leinster area.

- VAT and additional costs, including outlays, can also be added on, the NCA warned.

Ms Fitzgerald said the NCA has written to the Law Society and Justice Minister Alan Shatter to secure more transparency for consumers.

"We note that proposed improvements in transparency are due via the Legal Services Regulatory Bill but these will only arise when a consumer issues an instruction to a solicitor," she added.

"It is the NCA's view that more needs to be done in advance of this, to enable consumers to get a number of quotations and to make a decision, on the basis of full information, in relation to who they want to hire."

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