Quickie’ online divorce services facing scrutiny
The BBC has reported that so-called ‘quickie’ divorce services online have recently come under scrutiny by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) due to growing concerns about unclear information regarding the services provided and inadequate quality of service.
Whilst they have been available for many years, the use of ‘quickie’ online divorce services has rapidly grown since Covid-19. Individuals opt to use them as a ‘cheaper’ alternative to instructing a law firm to deal with their divorce and financial matters. However, various problems surrounding these companies are now being brought to the surface.
An investigation has therefore been launched by the CMA which aims to address consumer protection concerns related to these online services and to ensure compliance with existing laws and regulation.
Sarah Cardell, Chief Executive of the CMA, has said:
“These services are essential to people, often at the most challenging times in their lives…
These may not be frequent purchases, but they are life-changing. That’s why it’s so important that we investigate so that people can select the right legal service for them – for divorce or probate or will-writing – with confidence. It’s essential that firms get the basics right, including complying with general consumer law which applies to all traders. Customers must get a fair deal.”
What are the problems
Some of the main issues that individuals are finding by using such services are:
- They are misled about the simplicity of the process, especially when finances are involved, and they are sometimes unable to obtain the actual advice that they need;
- They are misled about the cost, as these companies often pitch themselves as a ‘cheaper’ alternative to law firms. However, individuals are not aware that they are not receiving proper advice for the prices they are paying so can often end up spending more by having to seek separate advice;
- The inadequate levels of service provided, with issues such as wrong forms being completed, incorrect details being filled in and missed deadlines;
- A lack of effective communication from the service provider, leaving them unsure about where they are in the process or feeling like they are not receiving the support that they require.
Another concern of the CMA is that there is limited protection for clients if one of these companies ceases to operate as there may be risk that important documents or information may be lost.
As the chief executive of the CMA points out, when individuals are paying for services to assist them with their divorce and finances, it is usually at one of the most challenging and stressful times in their lives. With emotions at an all time high, usually paying for assistance either from a law firm or an online service is a distressed purchase.
By using online services which may not be adhering to the necessary standards, even the most straightforward divorce can turn into a myriad of issues to unpick if clients have not been properly advised.
For divorces where there are complex assets such as businesses or pensions to consider, the risk of using ‘quickie’ divorce services is that these can be easily overlooked and clients may not receive the advice that they require.
Individuals can then face spending more than if they had approached solicitors in the first instance and the process then becoming drawn out, as further work can be involved to try to undo any mistakes that have been made. Clients may also no longer wish to pursue an agreement they have reached after receiving the benefit of proper legal advice.
We would therefore strongly recommend that client’s seek specialist advice in relation to the breakdown of their relationship, divorce or any children issues. With ever-evolving case law and precedents, our specialist team at Maguire Family Law are well equipped to deal with any issues pertaining to family law. Our client testimonials speak for themselves.
We are praised for our attention to detail and high level of client care, keeping our clients informed at every stage of the process. We are also always on hand to properly advise on issues which arise throughout a case.
If you would like some assistance with your family law matter, please do not hesitate to contact our team using the details below.