The Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) has responded to the Scottish Government consultation on legal services regulation reform.
Cara Elliott, policy and public affairs advisor at ACSO, said "ACSO welcomes modernisation to the legal services sector in Scotland, but maintains that reforms must be made with consumers' interests and access to justice at the forefront.
"In the event of reforms, it is crucial that the voice of consumers is heard. At a minimum, there should be a general duty on any new regulator to consult and engage widely to help promote a consumer-focused regulatory culture. Alongside this, we recommend a sector-specific voice to ensure consumer representation through the regulatory framework."
Elliott further stressed that "a single gateway complaints-handling system is necessary to ensure simplicity, transparency and accessibility. Legislation should require the regulator to develop a new, single gateway for those it regulates. In instances of harm, the regulator should also be required to develop appropriate, flexible and fair sanctions, rules for proportionate compensation and a simple process for appeals. This would allow consumers easily to report their complaints while simultaneously driving systemic improvement."
Finally, Elliott adds that "any meaningful expansion of legal technology must in turn, provoke better regulation. Regulators need to engage with the technology entrepreneurs who are helping to shape the future of legal services to ensure that all consumers maintain a fair access to justice."
ACSO members can download the full submission from the members' area of the website.