Revamp of LE market needed to widen access to justice
by Gill Montia
A new report from Consumer Focus suggests that Before the Event Legal Expenses Insurance (BTE LEI) could play a bigger role in widening access to justice.
However, the watchdog claims that the current design and promotion of the insurance leaves a lot to be desired, as 43% of people surveyed said they knew little or nothing about legal expenses insurance despite the fact that around six in 10 consumers already pay for cover in some form.
According to Consumer Focus, BTE LEI needs to be more clearly explained and more consistent in what it offers if it is to help fill the gap left by the reform of “no win, no fee” arrangements and legal aid cuts of £350 million a year in England and Wales.
The body therefore wants to see:
Improved consumer information and clearer marketing, such as comparison tables and key facts documents.
A consumer information and knowledge campaign to highlight the potential benefits of legal insurance.
An independent appeals system so consumers can challenge if their claim is rejected.
Freedom of choice so consumers can choose their own solicitors if they make a claim.
A review by regulators of the impacts of referral fees and bundled bank account packages on the market.
Consumer Focus legal services expert, Lola Bello, comments: “Eligibility for legal aid is dwindling and this has resulted in a lot of noise about legal expenses insurance stepping into the breach.”
She adds: “Our research shows legal fees insurance could help some consumers but it cannot plug the gap that any legal aid cuts will leave behind.”