Should you publish pricing information on your website? This is a question that many legal businesses have been wrestling with in recent years, but for many regulated firms, you’ll now have to publish this information from December 2018.
If you are a solicitor or licenced conveyancer, you’ll probably already know your regulator’s opinion on the matter (as both the SRA and CLC have recently published guidance on price transparency for specific services).
Why have the new price transparency rules come about?
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) ‘legal services market study’ concluded in 2016 that consumers found it harder to pick the best choice for legal support when pricing, quality and service information was not published by providers. In response, the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) and the Council For Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) proposed and approved new rules, which will take effect in December 2018. The new rules mean that many firms will now have to be much more open about their pricing.
What are the new SRA rules?
In advance of new price transparency requirements coming into force from early December 2018, the SRA have issued guidance, templates and best practice tips. This is because come December, SRA regulated firms will have to publish pricing information about their charges (and what the charges comprise) for a range of different services. As stated on the SRA website, these include:
- For members of the public: conveyancing, probate, motoring offences, employment tribunals (claims for unfair or wrongful dismissal) and immigration (excluding asylum).
- For small businesses: debt recovery (up to £100k), employment tribunals (defending claims for unfair or wrongful dismissal) and licensing applications for business premises.
From December the SRA will, in addition, require firms to explain the usual timescales for the services and also make available details of the qualifications and experience of the staff that are working in these areas for the firm.
Prominent positioning on your website
Further to the above requirements, the SRA also expect firms to publish this information “in a prominent location on a firm’s website”. They elaborate in their guidance by saying that this must be “accessible, clearly signposted and easy for visitors to find”.
CLC new rules
If you are a conveyancing firm regulated by the CLC, similar new rules also come into force for you in December. This is because the CLC, the SRA (and also CILEX Regulation) have worked together to take a cross-industry approach on the issue of price transparency (since the results of the CMA study were published).
Main objection to publishing pricing information on your website
If you are a regulated firm operating in the fields above, you are obliged to act. There is a common objection that regulated or unregulated firms may have to publish pricing information – but is it a valid reason?
‘We don’t want to compete on price and worry that by publishing our prices on our website we’ll get less enquiries from site visitors’
This is an understandable (if not reasonable) concern for many businesses. Countless regulated firms have traditionally been reluctant to provide pricing information on their sites for this reason. The problem with this approach is that firms don’t realise that in a changing world and marketplace, it is now simple for the public to compare firms on price if they wish to. Not all firms, but a large enough proportion to make a price-based decision.
If you aren’t already publishing your pricing information, you can be certain that several of your competitors will be. For anyone making a decision principally on price (and this will initially be a large proportion of people looking for many legal services) you won’t even be in the running if you don’t publish your pricing. This is not just a regulatory compliance issue, it is a consumer requirement!
But we don’t want to compete on price alone
You may think losing price conscious customers isn’t a huge loss to your business, if you don’t wish to compete purely on price. In reality however, publishing your pricing information (even if you are relatively expensive) in conjunction with details of your service offering, actually enables you to differentiate your business on other factors such as quality and experience.
If you are in this position, you should (before December) set out clearly on your website what your service offering contains – the implication being that if you offer a great quality service people will realise this and consider your pricing information accordingly. The new rules may in fact benefit firms that provide real value rather than just cheap prices.
Someone who would traditionally make a decision purely on price, will now be forced to consider the other relevant factors (that they should in reality be considering anyway). Firms who offer real value and expertise should now relish a more level playing field come December.
Expensive and low-quality service?
The lack of price transparency in many areas of the legal marketplace has (traditionally) enabled some firms to provide a low-quality service at an expensive price. Firms operating in this manner will recently have been squeezed, with the growing prevalence of online reviews. This is a further ‘nail in the coffin’ of unethical (or unscrupulous) legal service provision. If you believe your firm offer an expensive and less valuable service than your competitors, now is the time to take a long hard look at your business and decide if you need to make changes, ahead of December’s deadline.
Embrace the price transparency rules
In reality, if your firm is regulated by the SRA or CLC and you are providing one of the services that the new rules apply to, you have no choice but to accept change. The vast majority of firms have little to fear, as long as they implement any website changes in a way that projects their business in a positive light. Of course, if you just add all this information to your website with little thought then you could be worse off come December. Thankfully help is available from several sources (including us!).
So how should I go about complying if my firm is regulated?
As mentioned earlier, both the SRA and CLC have provided guidance and templates. You can view the CLC information here, https://www.clc-uk.org/lawyers/informed-choice/ and the SRA’s information here; https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/resources/transparency.page.
We can help regulated firms make the required changes
If your website is outdated and you don’t currently have an easy way to meet the new requirements, don’t panic – but act quickly. As experts in legal website design and content writing, we can build you a new website that takes into account the new price transparency rules. We can present the information in a way that will be beneficial to your business, rather than a hinderance.
We understand that many firms are hesitant to make the required changes for obvious reasons. As a regulated firm in one of the sectors covered by the new rules, you have little choice but to comply. With Solve Legal Marketing’s help you can make this a positive change for your business, rather than a negative one. Get in touch now to find out how we can help.
If you aren’t a regulated firm but you’d like help displaying pricing information on your website in an effective way to be more competitive, please get in touch to discuss our bespoke content writing and comprehensive website design options for law firms.