New research reveals that more than one in ten divorces are dealt with online by unregulated providers.
The research project carried out by The Legal Services Board (LSB) reveals the scale of the issue, leading the LSB to warn consumers about the potential pitfalls of using online providers, including misleading advertising claims and a lack of informed choices.
The research found that between 10 to13 percent of market share was serviced by unregulated providers, essentially online divorce providers and fee-charging, non-qualified McKenzie Friends.
Commenting on the research, Law Society chief executive, Catherine Dixon, said: “Many legal services can be provided by regulated and unregulated providers. If legal services are purchased from a solicitor, buyers can rest assured that the service is fully regulated, that insurance is in place and that, in the event that something goes wrong, they have the right to redress.
“Unfortunately, however, it is not always clear to consumers whether they are buying from a regulated provider. As the LSB research shows, there are a number of unregulated providers supplying the same legal services as solicitors and many buyers simply will not know that they won’t get the same level of protection from an unregulated provider if something goes wrong.
“This can be exacerbated if the unregulated provider calls themselves a lawyer, which is not a protected title. We think that you should only be able to call yourself a lawyer if you are a qualified legal practitioner. We are concerned that many consumers may not know the difference, which can leave them exposed.”
Surjit Verdi, a family law expert, with Palmers, said: “The LSB has identified the nub of the problem when it states that consumers often do not realise these online sites are unregulated and what this means to them if things should go wrong. At a time when couples are entering into a divorce, with all the financial uncertainty this inevitably brings, the temptation to find a quick, cheap and simple solution is understandable.
“However, the problem – as with most things – is that you often get what you pay for and if the price seems too good to be true, then alarm bells should ring.
“A good solicitor will give you a breakdown of costs before commencement of the work so that there are no nasty surprises. Divorce is not a ‘one size fits all’ service and needs to be tailored to ensure that a person’s individual circumstances are fully taken into account.
“A failure to ensure this could lead to serious complications in the future, with no protection or redress.”
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