44% of dissatisfied consumers don't complain

To achieve the outcomes in the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct, law firms are required to make sure that clients are informed 'at the outset of their matter of their right to complain and how complaints can be made’.

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But a recent survey by the Legal Services Consumer Panel (LSCP) found that ‘44% of legal consumers who are dissatisfied with legal services do not complain’. Compared to an average of 27% of dissatisfied customers who do file a complaint in the services sector overall, these findings suggest this lack of action is more common within the legal service arena than in other sectors.  

Other significant findings include the fact that ‘43% of the public trust lawyers to tell the truth’, which has increased from 42% last year but is still down from 47% in 2011. The survey also concluded that ‘46% of the public feel their consumer rights would be protected when using lawyers’. This is the same as last year but again is still down from 51% in 2011.

Among all the services provided by the legal sector, will writing is rated the highest within the market for satisfaction with outcome, service and value for money. Although previous work by the Panel has shown that consumers may not be able to properly assess the technical quality of the work. In addition, consumers who ‘felt they hand a good choice of providers’ were more satisfied with the service provided than those who did not, so it pays to shop around.

The survey also picked up on some social differences, with ABC1s and White British consumers found to be more likely to trust lawyers, have confidence in the market and be happier with the service received than C2DEs and BME consumers. When compared to their English counterparts, Welsh consumers have been shown to be more trusting of lawyers. They possess more confidence in the protection of consumer rights and have higher levels of satisfaction with the service they received.

In response to the survey Elisabeth Davies, Chair of the Legal Consumer Panel, expressed her concerns:

‘Every time someone feels powerless to complain about a lawyer, confidence in legal services is dented and law firms miss an opportunity to learn from their mistakes, innovate and improve the service they offer.’

The solution offered to legal service providers is to ‘work even harder than their counterparts in other sectors to break down barriers to complaining’.

On a positive note, the results of the survey show that overall service satisfaction, now at 79%, has remained steady over the past four years, and ‘previously falling levels of trust in lawyers and other indicators of consumer confidence have stabilised this year. But Davies urges that there is no time for complacency: ‘We hope public trust and confidence in legal services has now bottomed out, but this news doesn’t mask what is far from an ideal state of affairs.’

In light of the above, it is time more law firms work harder to give consumers confidence in, and accessibility to, pursuing their complaints. 

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