SRA cracks down on price compliance transparency

updated on 27 August 2021

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is demanding that law firms adhere to transparency rules and display the SRA digital badge on their websites.

The SRA is writing to 8,000 law firms requiring that the compliance officer for legal practice confirm they have a website that is compliant with the SRA transparency rules by 27 August 2021.

Even firms that don’t have a website must complete a declaration.

The SRA rules require that firms offering consumer and business law services must publish details of prices and service standards.

The SRA rules came into effect in December 2018, following the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) legal services market study which concluded that consumers were not in the best position on which lawyers to instruct due to insufficient information on prices and service levels.

The requirement to display the SRA’s logo was initially voluntary. However, it became mandatory on 25 November 2019, following an SRA online trial in 2016, which found 79% of over 4,200 people felt more comfortable choosing a provider when that business displayed a regulator’s logo.

Firms that display the SRA logo on their websites visibly differentiate themselves from unregulated providers.

In January the SRA sanctioned three law firms for failing to publish price and service information on their websites, since then many firms have been sanctioned.

Here is a list of the SRA’s transparency rules (that applies to authorised firms only):

  • The SRA digital badge must not only be on the website but must appear in a ‘prominent place.’
  • The SRA number must be displayed on the firm’s website prominently.
  • Details on how to make a complaint must be included on the website, signposting the reader to both the Legal Ombudsman and the SRA.
  • The total cost of each service and the basis of the charges for each service must be made clear (eg, fixed fee or an hourly rate).
  • The firm should publish information on the experience and qualification of anyone conducting the work and the supervisors for this work. (This is likely to be in the ‘people’ or ‘about us’ section on the firm’s websites.)
  • The firm should display details of disbursements, if the actual cost is unknown then an average cost is advised.
  • It must be made clear whether the VAT is to be applied to the costs or disbursements and what the amount of VAT is (simply stating ‘plus VAT’ or ‘excluding VAT’ is insufficient).
  • The firm should list what is covered for the price given on its website.
  • The costs information must be “clear and accessible” on the firm’s website.