?The IPW response to the Legal Ombudsman report on complaints in the will writing sector? 17/10/2014
Will writing is not a reserved legal activity and is a service that can be offered by unregulated persons. Members of the Institute of Professional Willwriters (IPW) have passed an exam or proved their specialist knowledge through experience and then commit to continuing professional development throughout their membership.
Since 2010, The IPW have had their Code of Practice approved under the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme that is administered by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI). As part of the approval process, the code must include a complaints procedure that offers the consumer redress when something goes wrong with the service given to them by a will writer. If the complaints procedure is unable to reach a satisfactory outcome after a thorough investigation, the consumer has the opportunity to refer the complaint to the Estate Planning and Arbitration Scheme (EPAS), an independent scheme run for the IPW by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators whose findings will be binding on the IPW member. To date no complaints have been referred to EPAS as the IPW have been able to successfully resolve any issues through its own internal scheme to the satisfaction of the complainant.
The Legal Ombudsman, who is tasked with dealing with complaints against regulated legal service providers (mainly solicitors) have released a report into Will and Probate complaints. The report strays into the issue of complaints arising in the unregulated sector but does not acknowledge that the IPW already has an effective complaints procedure that is open to all unregulated will writers. It is simply incorrect to state that should a member of the public use a specialist will writer that, to quote the report, ?there is simply nowhere to turn should things go wrong?. The IPW do acknowledge, however, that clients of will writers who are not a member of the IPW have fewer options in respect of pursuing a complaint.
Since 2007, when complaints were first recorded by the IPW under its current complaints procedures, it has received 33 complaints, all of which have been resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant. Complaints that are referred to the IPW are those that the member has been unable to resolve through its own internal complaints procedure. The IPW complaints procedure does not cost the member or the consumer to use. In addition, the IPW publish complaints data annually on its website in its annual report.
During the last 12 months the IPW has received and settled 4 complaints to the satisfaction of the complainant. During the same period the Legal Ombudsman has received 1,013 complaints relating to regulated businesses. Whist the IPW is in full support of regulation for Will writing it is clear that regulation alone does not equate to a positive customer experience.
The Legal Ombudsman’s report looks at seven case studies, only one of which involves a firm in the unregulated sector, concentrating mainly on complaints in the regulated sector, yet it concludes that there is a need for another complaints process in the unregulated sector. There is simply no evidence for this.
Chief Executive of the IPW, Sally Brown said, ?The Institute of Professional Willwriters have run an effective scheme for a number of years now that proves that the consumer can be protected through our own complaints procedure. All our members follow the Code of Practice and because of that the general public can be confident in the services offered by IPW members in respect of will writing. The extremely low number of complaints and the fact that none have ever been referred to independent arbitration points to the skill of our members and the effectiveness of our complaints procedure. Our members are specialists in their field, which is often not the case in the regulated sector, and they are proud to offer such a service and confident that in the unlikely event something does go wrong, that their client can seek redress through a proven and effective complaints procedure.?
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