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Solicitors slam HSBC conveyancer panel

Solicitors are up in arms over HSBC’s decision to only use conveyancers from a restricted panel, according to a network that represents UK high street law firms.

The Bold Group says it has been contacted by close to 100 firms in an unprecedented outpouring of frustration and anger since HSBC announced it was launching a conveyancer panel for its mortgage customers earlier this month.

The panel consists of 42 firms and although customers are free to use their own solicitor, HSBC says it will still use a firm from the panel for its own legal work if they do so, and that customers will be offered incentives to use a solicitor from the panel.

Rob Hailstone, founder of The Bold Group, says: “It’s understandable that many law firms feel both threatened and angry about HSBC’s decision. Since The Bold Group launched in 2010, we have never seen a single announcement stir up so much furore among our members.

“I strongly believe that within a relatively short period of time, HSBC and its mortgage customers will regret this badly thought through and poorly implemented development and I would urge HSBC to reconsider its position now.”

The Bold Group says it will be collating feedback and concerns from its members and submitting them to HSBC over the coming weeks.

The Law Society has also expressed concern over the panel, saying that having only 42 firms for the whole of the UK may restrict consumer choice.

Desmond Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society, says: “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 1,000 firms holding the CQS accreditation mark in England & Wales, HSBC need not limit its panel to 42. It is disappointing that HSBC failed to consult the Law Society.”

A spokeswoman for HSBC says: “We are not restricting consumer choice; customers will always be able to choose their own solicitor.

“A panel size of 42 firms is perfectly feasible for the level of mortgage business we are doing at the moment.”

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  • Steven Edwards 9th February 2012 at 1:10 pm

    I have been directly impacted by this, and the offer of choosing your solicitor (even for the £160 + VAT fee) is a total farce.

    My chosen solicitor (an experienced coveyancing specialist with decades of experience) was ready to have papers for signing on Sat 4th Feb in preparation for exchange this week. The week prior, Countrywide dropped 6 pages of requirements on him and then, on Monday of this week, he was contacted by the seller’s solicitors notifiying him that they did not feel that the transaction would complete, as Countrywide were insisting on a return-of-funds undertaking that was wholly inappropriate.

    The net result is that today, 9th Feb (2 days after we were supposed to have exchanged), we’ve had to switch our entire conveyancing to Countrywide. Countrywide have informed me that this is a significant problem and multiple sales are falling through due to the onerous and inappropriate undertakings being demanded by HSBC. There is NO choice – you can pay the fee, but it appears you’ll still end up having to go to Countrywide.

    It’s absolutely despicable; we’ll now face a legal bill from both our own solicitor and Countrywide, thorugh no fault other than HSBC’s, a delay of many weeks (a potentially critical delay on a reposession, with HSBC aware of the timescales from the very start), and we’re having to deal with a faceless firm with the most appaling reputation for customer service. And this is legal??

    Had we not gone as far as we have, we’d be changing lender. I would sugegst everyone think VERY carefuly before proceeding with mortgages with HSBC.

  • norbert colon 6th February 2012 at 10:35 am

    As a property solicitor I have just received my first ‘instructions’ from Countrywide on behalf of their client HSBC. I must say, to be asked to provide a 20 point undertaking to a bunch of Manchester Chavs who by past accounts have never read anything I’ve ever sent them makes me feel like giving up.

  • Robert Ailsby (www.wattsandleeding.co.uk) 3rd February 2012 at 9:01 pm

    now is the time for us ALL to join forces and fight. if we take steps then we can win this. if hsbc set an example then the others may follow. we MUST stand together or we will fall. i for one am ready for a fight. we must all contact the law society and think of ways to stop hsbc with the power of the law.

  • Stuart Nelson 23rd January 2012 at 9:59 am

    As a longtime customer of HSBC I am appalled by this. Its all very well a spokesperson for HSBC saying they are not restricting customer choice, but the customer has to pay an additional £192 for the privalege of having that choice. Its disgusting and HSBC may well be losing my custom!

  • Too late now 17th January 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Funny but I didn’t see any support from the 100 or so “concerned” firms – when the sole practitioners were removed from the panels, even though it was inevitable what would happen next.
    These firms should stop moaning and either retain or close their businesses – just like the SP before them.

  • GARY 16th January 2012 at 4:40 pm

    They they know how mortgage brokers feel…..Oh dear.