legal & social welfare news from Govan Law Centre, Glasgow, UK

London based Which? threatens to sue GLC's Principal Solicitor for defending Scotland's independent legal profession   

 
   










 

 

Govan Law Centre's Principal Solicitor wrote the following letter (below) to The Herald in defence of Scotland's independent legal profession; and in response Which? (the trading name of the Consumer Association, registered in England & Wales, No 580128) threatened to sue (see PDF link below).  

Which? stipulated that their threatening letter was 'Private & Confidential' and 'Not for publication'.  Govan Law Centre disagrees.  We never agreed to confidentiality.  We believe in free speech and fair comment.

We do not believe that legal threats concerning a matter of major public interest should be 'private'.  The people of Glasgow and Scotland deserve full disclosure on important matters affecting access to civil justice in Scotland. 

Unfair picture of Scotland’s legal profession

We live in strange times. Which? lodges a "super complaint" alleging "legal restrictions" in Scotland "work against consumers as they prevent lawyers from innovating to meet the needs of their customers". The OFT agrees. The solution is to allow banks and supermarkets to deliver innovative legal services. The Herald reports (August 2) that Halifax Legal Solutions will deliver discounted conveyancing, will preparation and a fee-charging website where you can prepare tenancy agreements and letters about faulty goods. There are a few problems here.

First, non-lawyers selling houses and winding up estates is old news. The Herald wrongly states that in Scotland only solicitors can undertake conveyancing and executries. The Scottish Conveyancing and Executry Services Board was re-established in 1995 to license non-solicitors to provide conveyancing and executry services. So unsuccessful was market take-up that the board was abolished in 2002 (though there are still licensed practitioners). The reality is conveyancing and executry services have never been more competitive.

Secondly, non-lawyers helping landlords prepare tenancy agreements is common. Lawpack (for use in England and Scotland) has a residential lettings kit for £14.99 - a lot cheaper than Halifax Legal Solutions; or Google "tenancy agreements Scotland" and you can access services online for less than half the price of Halifax's membership fee. As for letters for faulty goods, why should you pay anything when you can go into your local Citizens' Advice Bureau or trading standards department and get free help (also available online)?

Regrettably, these facts do not prevent Which? and the OFT riding roughshod over Scotland's legal profession. So-called legal restrictions are the jewel in our legal system's crown. Scotland's legal profession is part of our heritage. Yet Which? and the OFT want us to hand this over to UK banks. This in the week The Herald reports that banks may face a £1bn bill to compensate customers scammed by mortgage exit fees; and the Financial Services Authority slams banks for subjecting customers to lies, scams and threats when they have sought a refund of bank charges.

Which? and the OFT have produced no evidence for the reckless claims they are making. Moreover, Which? overstates its authority. On its website it claims to be the largest consumer body in the UK, with 650,000 members. That is untrue. On closer inspection (http://www.which.co.uk/ about_us/A/who_we_are/membership/Membership_481_111732.jsp), it is apparent it has 10,500 actual members. Govan Law Centre acts on behalf of Money SavingExpert.com and the ConsumerActionGroup.co.uk. These online communities have almost 1,500,000 actual members across the UK.

Mike Dailly, Principal Solicitor, Govan Law Centre, 47 Burleigh Street, Glasgow. 

12:48am Friday 3rd August 2007

By YOUR LETTERS

 

THE RESPONSE FROM WHICH?: Click here for letter in PDF