IPReg, CITMA and CIPA held a webinar on 16 November, setting out the new costs and transparency requirements. You can review a recording of the webinar here.
Consumers and small businesses needing legal advice often do not have clear information about the price and services they would receive, the redress that is available and the regulatory status of providers. They therefore have difficulty comparing providers and it is hard for them to make informed choices, weakening competition and reducing access to justice. Regulated firms and attorneys report that the most frequent complaint received from clients is in relation to costs and costs information.
Users of intellectual property services are often businesses and more accustomed to using legal services. However, some will not be – a new business owner may be unfamiliar with how legal services are delivered and priced. Even sophisticated businesses need to be treated fairly and transparently and you should always act with integrity and in your client’s best interests.
Our rules therefore require you to provide your clients (including potential clients) with the best available information that you can about the work you will do for them and its cost. You should explain clearly and transparently the terms upon which your services are to be provided, including the nature and extent of the work that you will do, the likely cost and timescales. You should also keep your client informed about any changes to the services that you will provide and any cost implications as the matter progresses.
Although not a mandatory requirement, we also suggest that you let your clients know that you are regulated by IPReg and the benefits that such regulation brings with it.
IPReg has prepared guidance for firms and sole traders on complying with IPReg’s rules around costs transparency, and has also prepared a consumer guide to which firms can direct clients and potential clients to help them understand what they might need to know when instructing an attorney.
Regulated persons should also be aware that many of their clients will have the right to complain to the Legal Ombudsman's Office ("LeO"). The LeO has recently issued a third edition of its View of Good Costs Service guidance which provides a number of case studies demonstrating how and in what circumstances complaints about costs and transparency have been upheld or refused. IPReg encourages all regulated persons to be mindful of this guidance in addition to IPReg's own regulatory arrangements and published guidance.