Code of Practice
Chapter 9. Fees and Service Transparency
Notaries are required to provide information to consumers on both their fees and the service the consumer and client can expect to receive. The Practice Rules 2019 introduce requirements for greater transparency across the profession to allow consumers and clients to make informed choices when looking for a notary. The transparency requirements also extend to the way the notary advertises and promotes his practice and services. These transparency requirements sit alongside the legal obligations already in place under the general law, especially as service providers, traders, data controllers, and as gatekeepers under anti-money-laundering and prevention-of-terrorism legislation (see also Chapter 11– Anti Money Laundering).
As service providers and traders, notaries must comply with provision of services legislation and consumer rights legislation. Practice Rule 8 to a large degree mirrors existing legislation and stipulates that a notary has to supply information in writing, either hard copy or electronically, as soon as reasonably practicable when the notary accepts instructions from a client for professional work or changes the terms on which he is acting.
The information to be provided under Practice Rule 8.1 is:
• service information – a brief outline of the services which you provide (both reserved legal activities and other legal activities) setting out the key stages of the work (if more than one) and the normal timescales for each key stage;
• redress information – the level of professional indemnity insurance which you carry under your professional indemnity policy;
• complaint information – confirmation that you are covered by a formal complaints procedure in the event that a client is dissatisfied with the service provided and an explanation of how to make such a complaint using the ‘prescribed form of words’ as laid down by the Master; and
• regulatory information- confirmation that you are ‘Regulated through the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury’.
The requirements of Rule 8.1 do not have to be supplied on every occasion to clients who regularly instruct the notary or with whom there is a service agreement for the supply of notarial services on a continuing basis.
In practice it is likely that prior to accepting instructions you will already have supplied the potential client with an estimate of the fees and disbursements to be incurred in the particular transaction or you will have quoted a fixed fee to cover the transaction including disbursements and it will be that quote which will have then led the client to instruct you.
Practice Rule 14 requires further transparency measures to be observed when advertising notarial services either directly or indirectly, but a notary may not seek clients or business through unsolicited telephone calls or visits to persons or organisations. The basic rules regarding advertising are contained in Rule 14.1 and are expanded in Rule 14.2 to set down the minimum information which must be shown on a website advertising the notary’s services, whether that be a website dedicated solely to the notary or a page on a firm’s website advertising the notary’s services. This minimum information is in line with the prescribed information in Rule 8:
• price information
• service information
• redress information
• complaint information
• regulatory information
Where a notary has no website or webpage, the information required under Rule 14.2 nevertheless still has to be made available in writing to a client or potential client upon request.
- You comply with the transparency requirements of the Practice Rules specifically Rules 8 and 14
- You comply with provision of services and consumer rights legislation
- Your clients are aware of the cost of the transaction (or an estimate thereof), its length and how to complain if service falls short from the point that instructions are accepted by you
- The rights of consumer clients are understood and observed.
- You comply with your obligations as a service provider (see also Chapter 4 – A Prompt and Proper Standard of Service).
- When accepting instructions or changing the terms on which you are acting you provide your client with a signposting notice which explains the right to complain and how to make a complaint [Practice Rule 8] (see also Chapter 12 – Complaints).
- You comply with your obligations as a trader under consumer rights legislation and put in place procedures to identify which clients are consumers.
- You inform consumers of their right to cancel a services contract.
- You understand the statutory rights of consumers under a services contract and the remedies available to them and act accordingly when dealing with consumers.
- You provide your client with price information on accepting instructions and your website or webpage provides the prescribed price information showing the basis on which the fee will be charged with an estimate where possible or a fixed fee scale
- Your website or webpage if you have one displays all of the requirements of Rule 14.2
- If you do not have a website you have the information required in Rule 14.2 set out in a neatly prepared document that you can send electronically to clients or provide in hard copy on request.
- Your terms of business are overly complex or difficult for a client, particularly a consumer, to read or understand (see also Chapter 4 – A Prompt and Proper Standard of Service)
- You fail to inform consumers of their right to cancel a services contract where that right exists under consumer rights legislation
- You fail to take corrective action and/or offer appropriate redress in the event that your notarial services are not provided in accordance with the terms of a services contract entered into with a client
- You attempt to contract out of the statutory rights and remedies of consumers under consumer legislation
- You fail to supply a client with the prescribed information under Rule 8.1
- You fail to supply a client with information on fees and disbursements under Rule 8.2
- Your website does not contain the information required under Rule 14
- You refuse to supply a client with the information required under Rule 14 in writing on the grounds that you do not have a website
- You fail to inform a client promptly if a circumstance arises that will change the amount of a disbursement from the original quote or estimate