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Watchdog investigation shows the importance in trusted traditional law firms

A decision by the UK’s competition watchdog to investigate legal providers offering quickie divorces and will writing highlights the importance of using trusted law firms.

It was announced in recent weeks, in a period when important news often gets overlooked, that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said it would scrutinise claims made by online divorce services.

The move comes after vulnerable customers had also contacted the authority after being pressured into signing up for will-writing services.

There are now many alternatives to law firms, especially where the adviser is not a solicitor, but whilst these alternatives to conventional law firms can be cheaper, it leaves those customers unprotected because these advisers are not regulated and may not offer the same insurance cover in the unlikely event of something going wrong.

Simply, whilst these services may seem cheaper the problems, they can cause are enormous.

After all, solicitors are regulated and in the rare cases where something goes wrong there is a chance for redress. 

The online divorces, which are promoted as a faster alternative to the traditional process, have received complaints to the CMA about misleading claims about the simplicity of the process and prices, leaving consumers unclear about what they could get help with or what exactly they were paying for. 

The complaints have also been about "inadequate quality of service” which includes firms using the wrong forms, entering incorrect details and sending papers to the court late.

In the UK will writing is an unregulated service and this means anyone can legally draft a document.

The report, which we first read of on the BBC said the CMA says some consumers have been attracted by an "extremely low" initial fee for advice without honest conversations how the costs could escalate significantly. 

Additionally, some complaints involve reports of heavy-handed pressure selling and coercion.

In this investigation pre-paid probate plans will also come under the microscope. This is where customers pay set fees upfront for probate, which is the legal process of managing someone's estate when they die. 

The premise of these plans is that when someone passes away their families will not have to pay anything else towards the finalising of their financial affairs. 

According to the report the CMA is concerned about a lack of transparency about what costs are covered by the plans, people being sold unnecessary plans, and some cases of delays in the probate process and bereaved relatives being left unable to settle bills or sell property.

The news report makes grim reporting of the legal market being tarnished and clearly demonstrates why traditional law firms, which have a long history in their communities, provide excellent value to these unregulated offerings. Value is more than money- it is about peace of mind and trust. After all, tying up deceased estates, going through a divorce, or making a will are all vital and can be enormously stressful. Dealing with someone you know and have a dialogue with is worth so much.

It all appears a price worth paying.

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