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Legal Ombudsman puts ADR Application on Hold

By Michael Cross

The Office for Legal Complaints has put on hold its plan to become a provider of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in a move that may require modifications to client care letters. The Law Society described the consequences as ‘potentially serious’ for firms.

In a statement today, the Legal Ombudsman’s office said that it had withdrawn an application to the Legal Services Board to become certified as an ADR entity under the EU directive on ADR for consumer disputes. The directive requiring registration comes into force on 9 January 2016.

Explaining the decision, a briefing document posted today says that registration would require changes to the Complaints Scheme rules extending the time limit for complaints and limiting the number of grounds on which an ADR entity can refuse to deal with a complaint.

A consultation on the changes will open on 7 September and be open for eight weeks. The statement said that ‘a wider consultation is merited’ than the one originally planned.

The briefing says that solicitors are still required to signpost clients to the Legal Ombudsman under the Legal Services Act. However if the office becomes an approved ADR entity some ‘slight changes’ will be needed in the way information is presented.

Firms that have already changed their client care information based on earlier guidance should change it back, the briefing says. ‘We are sorry if this has inconvenienced you, and we will let you know in good time when the next changes are due to be implemented.’

A Law Society spokesperson said: ‘This decision has potentially serious implications for firms. From 1 October 2015, solicitors will not be able to provide information on an approved ADR scheme. Firms will therefore be in breach of the statutory ADR regulations.

‘We are asking the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) for guidance on what firms should do so that we can update our guidance.’

[Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette]

(28 August 2015)