All licensed conveyancers must now display their fees and work timescales as part of new regulations that went live yesterday.
Legal practices that are part of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers are now required to make cost information, including whether they have referral arrangements, readily accessible on their website and in alternative formats on request.
They will also have to disclose the services they provide, key stages in the delivery of them and indicative timescales.
The move has been broadly welcomed by trade bodies including the Conveyancing Association as well regulators at the Solicitors Regulation Authority and industry technology provider Search Acumen.
Andy Sommerville, director at Search Acumen, said: “This is a big step in making the industry more competitive and ultimately serves as a fantastic opportunity to allow practitioners to prove their worth in the marketplace.
“We now expect to see online price comparison services, either operated by conveyancers or a third party, where house buyers can get accurate pricing estimates for the fees they’ll have to pay based on their address. Again, this could be a huge business driver for switched-on firms.
“Competition in the sector has truly begun to bite as hundreds of conveyancers have been forced to close their doors over the last five years. Therefore, it has never been more vital that firms find a competitive edge and ensure they are offering market-leading services.”
But some legal firms have warned against price transparency causing a “race to the bottom”.
Suman Dally, partner at Shoosmiths, said: “Price transparency will not fix the current challenges with the conveyancing industry.
“As conveyancers, we need to be more consumer aware in our dealings with clients, and be more inward looking.
“We need to review our processes and procedures and invest in technology to offer consumers better, digital access to information, to enhance the home buying process – something price transparency will not change.
“Price is also only one metric to enable consumers to make an informed choice. Fee transparency in isolation does not enable clients to make informed choices based upon the capability of the firm being considered, its service or claims record.”