It noted that an advert from the Law Society “exaggerated the level of knowledge, skills and experience possessed by a CQS-accredited firm and its staff, and the extent of the checks that a firm had to undergo to receive its accreditation”.
The ASA decided that the Law Society could not substantiate its claim that “All Law Society Conveyancing Quality Scheme firms go through rigorous examination and testing to demonstrate that they have a high level of knowledge, skills, experience and practice”.
The warning came as the ASA overturned a previous ruling about an advert promoting the CQS and it told the Law Society not to use the advert in the complained about form again.
The Law Society told Mortgage Solutions that it accepted the decision and had amended the advert as requested. It added that it had never intended to mislead consumers.
“We acknowledge the ASA Council’s ruling and have taken steps to amend the advertisement,” it said.
“The advertisement was never intended to mislead consumers. The intention of the CQS scheme has always been to promote the highest standards of conveyancing practice and ensure consumer and lender confidence in conveyancing transactions.”
High-level of knowledge
The original complaint focused on a claim on the Law Society website that: “All Law Society Conveyancing Quality Scheme firms go through rigorous examination and testing to demonstrate that they have a high level of knowledge, skills, experience and practice”.
The complainant, a solicitor, understood that the requirements to join the scheme did not involve any assessment of applicants’ expertise or quality of service, challenged whether the claim was misleading and could be substantiated.
In its original ruling in July, the ASA agreed with the Law Society, stating: “We considered that the Law Society had demonstrated that the information submitted by applicants was examined rigorously to determine whether they had met those standards.”
However, following a reassessment of the case, the ASA reversed this decision and criticised the Law Society for not conducting thorough enough investigations into the skills and expertise of the firms it was accrediting as part of the CQS.
“We concluded that the claim ‘All Law Society Conveyancing Quality Scheme firms go through rigorous examination and testing to demonstrate that they have a high level of knowledge, skills, experience and practice’, as consumers were likely to understand it, had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading,” it said.
The ASA ruled that the ad must not appear again in the form complained about and told the Law Society to ensure that its advertising “did not describe CQS-accredited firms in a manner that misleadingly exaggerated the membership requirements of the CQS”.