Regulators guide: responding to consumer vulnerability

The Legal Services Consumer Panel has launched a practical guide to help regulators in the legal sector recognise and respond to consumer vulnerability. The guide is based on the British Standard BS18477 on Inclusive Service Provision, which the Panel has translated into a legal services setting. It forms a companion piece to the Panel’s toolkit on the Consumer Principles, and has read across to sectors other than legal services.

The Panel has written the guide because addressing vulnerability is especially important in legal services. Its research shows that consumers see legal services as a special case, often dealing with life-changing events. They feel vulnerable and recognise the imbalance of knowledge and power they suffer when dealing with lawyers. Vulnerability can mean consumers do not access services or use them ineffectively.

The aim of the guide is to provide regulators with a practical framework. It follows the three key elements of the regulatory journey: policy making, carrying out the core regulatory functions, and providing services to the public. Ultimately, if regulators become better at identifying and responding to consumer vulnerability, this should translate into law firms and lawyers acting in a more inclusive and accessible manner. 

Elisabeth Davies, Chair of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, said:

“Helping people in vulnerable circumstances goes to the heart of being a good lawyer and it follows that a good regulator must also be able to identify and respond effectively to consumer vulnerability. If legal regulators can get this right, lawyers will serve vulnerable clients better too.

“All regulators want to deliver effective protection for vulnerable consumers, but we know this is easier said than done. We hope our guide will push this issue up the agenda, giving legal services regulators practical support to successfully address consumer vulnerability throughout their work.”