The Law Society has reported the potential monopolising of the legal digital comparison site market if regulators proceed with new moves to encourage solicitors to appear on these comparison sites. With this, it is expected that firms with black and ethnic minority shareholders will suffer the most, as a disproportionate number work in smaller firms across the UK. Currently, 35% of sole practitioners and 22% of partners in smaller firms are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
Lubna Shuja, Vice President of the Law Society, spoke on quality indicators and comparison sites at the Society’s annual risk and compliance conference on the 25th of March 2022. We expect to see a policy statement from the Legal Services Board, ’empowering’ consumers to choose legal service providers in the coming days.
What are the potential consequences of monopolised comparison sites?
The new regulation could reduce consumer choice, and law firms could carry higher costs. Moves to ensure firms list on price comparison sites could also see them reduce their offerings when transitioning into using market comparers.
What does the Law Society think?
Shuja was seemingly concerned at the prospect of the comparison sites as she referred to other markets where “top comparison tools put commercial conditions on suppliers that can lead to higher costs”. She then spoke about how this could lead to larger firms monopolising and shutting smaller firms out of the market, leading to an “increase in prices, reduced choice and impacts on access to justice”.
Shuja also warned of the potential damage brought by fake reviews and affected data that can be brought on when data is inconsistent across practice areas.
She then cautioned that creating “meaningful benchmarks” to measure the quality of law firms’ offerings could damage the entire legal sector. “It is difficult to develop meaningful benchmarks across a diverse range of practice areas that provide a snapshot of what quality service should look like across the whole sector.”