ACSO responds to the Legal Services Board 'Draft statement of policy on empowering consumers'

Posted on Wed, 08/12/2021

The Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) has responded to the Legal Services Board (LSB) draft statement of policy on empowering consumers. 

Rachel Cairnes, policy and public affairs advisor at ACSO, said "Consumers often find it difficult to gauge the quality of a legal-service provider. This is primarily because consumers require the services of legal professionals or products in situations that may be distressing, rare, complex and have critical consequences. Moreover, a general lack of understanding about the justice system, as well as limited comparable information about the quality of legal service providers, means that many consumers do not engage effectively with the market. 

"Products such as before-the-event insurance (BTE) play a considerable role in improving access to justice but a general lack of consumer awareness, as well as the challenges faced by those in lower socio-economic backgrounds in accessing the insurance products through which BTE is attached, means that all stakeholders have a role to play in improving consumer knowledge. 

"Many regulators and legal bodies, such as the Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), support greater public legal education to raise awareness of the law and to help the public understand their rights. However, research from the financial market has shown that public education reduces significantly over time and has a negligible effect on behaviour with only a 0.1 per cent improvement in variance. Instead, a market with accessible and easy to follow products at the time of consumer need is of greater benefit. An effective consumer protection framework is also important to ensuring a satisfactory experience of the market and greater consumer confidence."

Cairnes further stressed that it was crucial that "appropriate guidance and policies are in place to assist not only the individual consumer but also to safeguard the wider public interest. A cross-sector, collaborative approach is required to help legal-service providers identify areas for greater transparency which will then improve the clarity of information published to consumers from the outset and on a continuing basis"

ACSO members can download the submission in full from the members' area of the website.