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HSBC has made the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) a pre-requisite for law firms on its new lender panel announced this week, a move welcomed by the Society, which is the representative body for all solicitors in England and Wales. But the Society has raised concerns over the bank’s decision to only include 42 firms on their panel for the whole of the UK.
The Society said that while it was encouraging to see CQS continue to be recognised as the standard mark in the residential conveyancing market, there remained concerns over the small size of the HSBC panel.
Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said: “HSBC’s decision to appoint only CQS accredited firms to its panel is further evidence that the scheme is firmly establishing itself as an essential standard for lenders. Nevertheless, we are concerned that fewer than 42 firms will serve home-buyers who use HSBC for their mortgage in England & Wales. Does this provide sufficient consumer choice?
“Although HSBC has a relatively small share of the mortgage market, such a low number of firms could struggle to provide all consumers – those who struggle to communicate other than in person or those who would prefer to use a local solicitor with the service they seek. With more than 1000 firms holding the CQS accreditation mark in England & Wales, HSBC need not limit its panel to fewer than 42.
'It is disappointing that HSBC failed to consult the Society. I suspect they have made the calculation that the majority of their customers will opt to use the bank's solicitor. 'Being on a panel such as that will be valuable. How long will bankers resist the temptation for a quick profit by selling places on that panel and putting up costs for house buyers? This is not in the long term interests of consumers. HSBC should reconsider.
“The disabled, those living in rural areas or even those wishing to simply use their family solicitor will either have little choice but to opt for the same solicitor as HSBC – one of their panel firms – or pay twice over - for their own solicitor as well as HSBC’s legal fees.”
Law Society 11th January 2012