One of the leading figures in the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has insisted that they cannot be held responsible if personal injury firms are choosing not to honour the spirit of the referral fee ban despite being the regulator for the industry.
Executive Director, Richard Collins (pictured), was speaking at a conference when he insisted that if anyone was responsible for firms not following the guidelines then it was in fact politicians who were to blame and not the regulators.
His claims come after yet another merger between a personal injury law firm and an insurance company took place which has been an ongoing practice since the ban was implemented on the 1st April this year.
Mr Collins told the conference: “We can enforce the word of the law but not the spirit. We cannot be held to account for the spirit to be compliant.”
He went on to insist that enforcement of the ban in the instances of alternative business structures who house a merger of insurers and personal injury firms played second fiddle to attempting to deal with the financial stability of law firms who were struggling since the ban.
This is despite the SRA sending out letters to 900 firms who they believed to be reliant on referral fees in the past and upcoming plans to begin visiting such firms to ensure that they are adhering to the ban.
He also reiterated the SRA’s stance on cash and gift inducement in order to bring in claims in the wake of the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling saying that he wishes to speak with the regulator in regards to expanding the ban to solicitors.
Mr Collins said: “I can see why you personally might say it’s wrong of solicitors to do it, but to meet the hurdle we need to get over (to merit a ban) we would need to see evidence of risk (to clients).”
1. SRA; https://www.sra.org.uk/sra/equality-diversity/newsletter/december-2014.page