A regulation chief has warned the UK’s biggest commercial firms that they are ‘deluded’ to think alternative business structures will not affect them.
Chief ombudsman Adam Sampson claims that plans for the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) to deal with complaints about claims management companies have been met "with almost unanimous support".
Claims management regulation is currently the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) but the Legal Services Act (2007) did make provision for the process of dealing with complaints to be developed under the new LeO.
The two bodies signed an understanding to share information on any breaches of existing rules earlier this year and proposals to bring complaints under LeO's remit were confirmed at a meeting of the Office for Legal Complaints this week.
Writing in his online blog, Sampson explained: "For consumers, we are offering the promise of wider access to redress. For the profession, an equalising of the playing field and, for those who currently pay our costs, the possibility of sharing some of the operating costs of our organisation with the providers who would now fall under our remit.
"Indeed, the financial logic behind the move is one of the reasons why the profession, among others, has come out supporting the move, understanding, as lawyers do, that it can only gain rather than lose financially by the change.
"The devil will be in the detail, as with all these things, as many people have told us. But the principle is sound."
Kevin Rousell, Head of Claims Management Regulation at the MoJ, confirmed that discussions were ongoing. However, he stressed that, whatever the outcome and the subsequent timeframes involved, this wouldn't effect the MoJ's frontline regulation responsibilities as "it is likely we will still have a role to play in helping to resolve complaints at first contact".
Rousell added: "There is agreement on the principle and feasibility discussions are currently ongoing. Ministers will have the final say.
"As the regulator and not the complaints handler we deal with them informally at the moment. We are likely to still have a similar role to play in the future even if serious complaints about service issues are dealt with by the LeO."