Solicitors - VAT charged when not chargable
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All solicitors in the UK and Wales are governed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Therefore, all firms must adhere to high standards of practice and comply with rules and regulations. If your solictor has charged VAT for non VAT chargeable work, speak with the firm in the first instance to express your concerns. The charge is most likely an oversight and can be easily rectified. However if you are dissatisfied with the response, you should also email your complaint to the senior partner in the firm. They will have an internal complaints procedure, which they must follow. If the issue is not resolved after 8 weeks, your case can be forwarded to the Legal Ombudsman. They will either deal with your case or direct you to the SRA if appropriate.
All bills should show you the dates between which the work was done and enough information for you to decide whether the bill is reasonable. Sometimes your solicitor will accompany the bill with a print out of a computer time record or work summary. If you want more information you may request a bill containing detailed items within three months of receiving a summary bill. This will then replace the summary bill and may be for more than the original bill.
Working out your charges
The ways in which charges are worked out differ depending on whether your legal work has been contentious (with court proceedings) or non-contentious (with no court proceedings). In both cases your solicitor's bill should contain enough information for you to see what work has been done and what you are being charged for so that you can decide whether to get your bill checked.
Bills for contentious works
If the work involved a court case, your solicitor can send you either a brief summary of costs (called a gross sum bill) or a bill containing detailed items. If you receive a summary, you may ask for a bill containing detailed items within three months. However, you cannot ask for this if your solicitor has already started to sue you for the money. If you ask for a bill containing detailed items, it will replace the original summary and can be for more or less than the summary.
Bills for non contentious works
Non-contentious work is work that has not involved the courts, but may involve some tribunals. Your solicitor may be prepared to give you more detail of the work that has been done, if you ask.
Getting your bill checked
If your bill is for contentious or non-contentious work you may get your bill checked by the court. This is called assessment.You should know
- All solicitors in the UK and Wales are governed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) which sets codes of conduct and quality.
- All firms must adhere to high standards of practice and comply with rules and regulations.
- If the issue is not resolved after 8 weeks, your case can be forwarded to the Legal Ombudsman Service.
- The Legal Ombudsman will either deal with your case or direct you to the SRA if appropriate.
- These rights are for England & Wales only.
Helping the company to resolve your issue
To help the company resolve your issue either phone the company using the resolver iPhone or Android App, or email them and explain clearly what happened, how you would like to resolved.
Give the company time to respond, the speed at which companies responds varies but Trading Standards recommends to allow 14 days to expect a response. resolver will record all your communications and remind you what to do.
Making a complaint
If the issue is not resolved, you can make a complaint to your solicitor via resolver. Include copies of any relevant documents or correspondence and notes or recordings of any calls. Explain your issue and what you want them to do about it.
You should request a copy of their firm’s complaints procedure and ask who will be dealing with your complaint.
If you are not satisfied
If your solicitor does not resolve your complaint within 8 weeks, you can refer your complaint to the Legal Ombudsman. The Ombudsman deals with complaints regarding poor service by solicitors.
You can export your resolver case file as a package including copies of the correspondence and supporting documents that you have uploaded. You should ask the lawyers permission before you send recordings of phone calls.
Depending on your case and their findings, the Legal Ombudsman has the power to order the lawyer to refund fees, to return documents or to pay compensation.
Is there a deadline for contacting the Ombudsman?
Make sure you contact the Ombudsman within six months of receiving the final response from your solicitor. resolver will remind you when to escalate your case.
Your final option
If your solicitor is in breach of their professional standards, has discriminated against you or has acted dishonestly, you can take your case to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The Ombudsman can advise you on whether your case should be referred to the SRA.
You will need to fill in a copy of their complaint form and send them a copy of your resolver case file. If your complaint has been reviewed by the Ombudsman you should include a copy of their findings and any other supporting documents. The SRA will investigate your case and has the power to impose fines or even to close a firm. However they cannot issue compensation.
Taking legal action
If you believe your solicitor has acted negligently you can take them to court and if you are successful you may be entitled to compensation. You should seek legal advice from a lawyer specialising in professional negligence cases.
Be aware you cannot take your solicitor to court if you have already accepted a decision from the Ombudsman.
If you need advice
If you need any assistance or guidance regarding your issue you can contact Citizens Advice on 08444 111 444 or the Legal Ombudsman’s helpline on 0300 555 0333.
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