Paul Rogers for The Times
Solicitor leaders have been forced to scrap advertisements promoting a property law quality badge for legal firms because they misled consumers.
The ASA found that the claim had “not been substantiated and was therefore misleading”. The ruling comes after the Law Society was found to have abused its market position in a competition law challenge to the scheme.
In May, the Competition Appeal Tribunal backed a claim from a training business, Socrates, which had argued that the society was preventing solicitors from using private providers to meet the scheme’s requirements.
That decision is thought to have cost the society, which represents more than 130,000 solicitors in England and Wales, about £1 million in damages and legal costs.
The latest ruling from the ASA found that the society had been using misleading advertising for the conveyancing scheme for the past few years. In its judgment today, which overturned an earlier ruling in June, the authority orders that “the ad must not appear again in the form complained about”.
It adds that the ASA “told the Law Society to ensure that their advertising did not describe [scheme]-accredited firms in a manner that misleadingly exaggerated the membership requirements”.
A society spokesman confirmed to The Times that the advertisement had been amended to comply with the ruling.
A Law Society spokesman said: “We acknowledge the ASA Council’s ruling and have taken steps to amend the advertisement. The advertisement was never intended to mislead consumers.”
He added that the intention of the scheme “has always been to promote the highest standards of conveyancing practice and ensure consumer and lender confidence in conveyancing transactions”.