The EU directive on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) comes into force in the UK on 9th July 2015. The Legal Ombudsman has applied to become a certified entity under the directive. It can be expected that this application will be successful.
This means that the Ombudsman scheme rules have to be brought in line with the directive’s provisions, and firms will therefore need to update their client care letters, terms and conditions, website and complaints procedure from 9th July.
The length of time clients have to bring a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman against legal services providers will increase from six months to twelve months from the date of a final response from a lawyer. All final response letters sent to clients on or after 9th July must include the twelve months limit.
Terms and conditions will need to reflect this change and also must show the website address of the Legal Ombudsman (www.legalombudsman.org.uk).
Firms will have to ensure their website also shows the name and website address of the Legal Ombudsman.
Complaints handling procedures should also be amended to reflect the changes.
Further, whenever a firm has received a complaint from a client and has exhausted its internal complaints handling procedure, the firm will now be required to inform the client:
- that they are unable to settle the complaint with the client,
- of the name and website address of an ADR certified entity which would be competent to deal with the complaint (i.e the Legal Ombudsman) should the client wish to use alternative dispute resolution, and
- that they are obliged to submit to the ADR procedure operated by the Legal Ombudsman