The SRA price transparency, what’s IT got to do with it?

You might wonder what a hosted IT company is doing writing about the incoming SRA price transparency requirements, I’m certainly not pretending to be a regulations expert that’s for sure. However, I was recently reading up on the subject and it struck me, how would the IT industry react if a similar requirement was enforced on us? Much the same way, I would imagine. For when it comes to providing a service, whether that’s a cloud solution or legal advice, the focus is always on value over and above cost.

Placing a standardised cost on an intangible service with many possible variables is always going to be tricky, however, this is the reality that faces law firms come next month. Under the new rules, all regulated firms will, from early December, be required to proactively publish information on prices they charge and what these include, across a number of common services. In addition to prices, firms must also outline typical timescales for the quoted services and provide details of the experience and qualification of staff who work in these areas.

Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, commented: “Publishing information on price, services and protections will not only benefit the public but will also help those who deliver these services win business and connect with their customers.” Of course, improving transparency around price should only be a positive thing. Law firms have a duty to provide a proper standard of service and behave in a way to maintain the trust the public places in them. By enforcing this requirement, the SRA is promoting a message of championing consumer rights and enabling informed choice which I’m sure is something we can all get behind.

However, not everyone agrees. There are some that argue that although the concept is admirable, the methodology is flawed and too simplistic. The worry is that the guidelines create a false impression that choices can be made on a ‘compare the market’ basis, therefore ignoring the all-important due diligence process.

Many lawyers argue that firms don’t offer identical services and each consumer’s circumstances are different which often leads to a bespoke service and therefore, a bespoke quote. The same can be argued for the service that managed IT providers deliver.

The dark arts and shady charging practices of unscrupulous firms have forced this current situation, but it’s an opportunity for the truly honourable and exceptional firms to now shine. As a managed IT provider, the feedback we get from our clients is that value is more important than price to our clients, something I’m sure many law firms can relate to. Not all law firms, IT providers and other service-driven businesses are created equally, and the conscientious organisation will remain focused on delivering the outcomes that the client wants in a cost-effective way.

One of the concerns for many lawyers is that the price transparency update will lead to firms using vague or woolly wording on their online price pages, negating the objective of improving transparency. A bit like GDPR, there’s been a lot of noise in the industry leading up to this regulation change and we’ll have to wait until December to understand the true impact.

The moral of the story is that if you truly deliver a great service, then the concept of price transparency shouldn’t scare you at all, it’s true for law firms, IT companies and all service companies alike.

Lydia Cooper, Nasstar Plc

Nasstar is an established and well-regarded IT services provider to the legal sector with more than a decade’s worth of experience supporting barristers, solicitors and legal professionals with their IT needs.

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