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Notary News

May 2020

Job Vacancy: The Faculty Office is seeking to appoint a Risk, Compliance & Investigations Officer and Deputy Chief Clerk. Details on the role and how to apply can be found here.

Covid-19: Guidance on remote notarisation. The Faculty Office has issued guidance to assist notaries in determining whether it is appropriate to authenticate the signing or execution of a document remotely using video conference technology at a time when social distancing measures apply such as to preclude meeting individuals in person.

April 2020

Anti Money Laundering (AML) Risk Assessment Review

As part of the practice certificate renewal application for 2020, the Faculty Office required notaries to submit a copy of their practice risk assessment. All notaries are required to complete a risk assessment under Regulation 18 of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Regulations 2017 (“MLR 2017”). At the start of 2020 the Faculty Office undertook a detailed review of these risk assessments.

The results are published in the Risk Assessment Review Report (click link).

UK Legal Sector Affinity Group (LSAG) advisory note re COVID-19

The UK Legal Sector Affinity Group (LSAG), which includes the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury and all the legal sector supervisors named in the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations, has jointly published an advisory note, highlighting key AML risks and challenges for the legal profession associated with the Covid-19 crisis. It also includes information to help the profession comply with their ongoing obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations.

The advisory note covers:

Some of the particular AML risks to legal firms and vulnerabilities that criminals may seek to exploit during this time of unprecedented economic pressure and upheaval

Challenges facing firms and factors to consider in respect of non face-to-face identification & verification, and associated digital identity services Other issues to consider in respect of policies, controls and procedures, data protection and information security

Spot Check – Price Information

On 2 December 2019 Rule 14.2 of the Notaries’ Practice Rules 2019 came into force requiring all notaries publicising their practice via a website to ensure that clear information on pricing, redress, service, complaints and regulatory information was available for the public to access on their websites. In advance of this the Faculty Office reviewed a sample of 25 notaries’ websites in the August before the Rule came into force. The Faculty Office then revisited the same websites in March 2020 to determine how many of these websites were compliant.

The Faculty Office found that 80% of the profession sampled had made improvements towards compliance and that over 50% were compliant under each of the 5 headings considered. Encouragingly, 91% of the notaries investigated were now providing important regulatory information to consumers.

The full report can be viewed here: Spot Check (Price Information).

Where the notaries investigated were considered to still be non-compliant or only partially compliant, they will be contacted by the Faculty Office and asked to update the information on their websites within a set timeframe. The Faculty Office will aim to carry out further checks in the future and reviews of websites are conducted when a notary is inspected.


The Covid-19 pandemic is presenting unprecedented challenges for us all. We will provide advice to Notaries in relation to Covid-19 which will be updated as the situation develops.

The Faculty Office

We continue to monitor closely the unprecedented threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. As far as possible, we are taking every available step to minimise the potential impact the virus will have on our service delivery to our regulated community and consumers whilst, most importantly, safeguarding and protecting our staff and their families.   Faculty Office staff are all working remotely. You will find all our staff’s direct dial numbers and individual email addresses at: http://www.facultyoffice.org.uk/about-us/staff/ and the main email address remains unchanged at faculty.offce@1thesanctuary.com.   Please use electronic means of communication rather than post where possible as post/DX will take longer to reach us. 

We are here to support you with regulatory issues you may have in the current environment. We can’t give legal advice but we can talk through your concerns and may be able to provide guidance on your regulatory issue.

Your work

We want to support you in finding safe ways to provide service to your clients where it is safe to do so.  These are exceptional times presenting unprecedented challenges to notaries and their clients. Lawyers around the world are facing huge difficulties and having to accept that delays, postponements and accommodations have to be made in legal transactions until some semblance of normality returns.  Notaries have public duties and Rule 21 of the Notaries Practice Rules 2019 deals with the provision of Notarial services under the heading of ‘Supervision of a Notary’s Office’

R. 21.1 A notary shall take reasonable steps to ensure that every office where he practises is and can be seen to be:

21.1.1 open, save exceptionally and for a good reason, during normal office hours for the provision of appropriate notarial services to members of the public; (our emphasis).

It would be difficult, we believe, for anyone to successfully argue that these are anything other than exceptional times, so any decision by an individual notary not to provide their normal notarial services at the current time would be fully understood by the Faculty Office if there were to be a complaint made against a Notary and we will take a proportionate approach to enforcing rules on notaries working through the Covid-19 crisis.

Continuing Professional Education

We are aware that many of the CPE courses which the Notaries Society and Notary Training were scheduled to run have had to be postponed or cancelled.   Both providers are working on online CPE courses which either already have been, or will shortly be accredited under the Notaries (CPE) Regulations 2010 and we are aware of other providers who are also aiming to have online courses available in the coming weeks.     There will therefore be ample supply of online courses to enable notaries to achieve the required three accredited points as part of their annual six point CPE requirement before the Autumn.

Supervision

For notaries who are currently under supervision and their supervisors, we are content that any supervision meetings required by the rules can be conducted by Skype, Zoom or other online platform provided that adequate arrangements for electronic inspection of documents, protocols etc can be arranged between supervisor and supervisee.  The requirement for physical visits is waived until such time as the current lockdown and social distancing guidance from the government remains in place.

For further guidance see the Official Government response  “Business and other Organisations” Coronavirus (COVID-19): UK government response – GOV.UK which, whilst not specific to Notaries, provides useful information.

Whatever pressure is put upon you to provide Notarial Services, your own health is paramount – where you can, work from home, and above all stay safe.

The following message has been issued by the FCO today (3 April)

Dear colleagues

The FCO is very grateful for your patience whilst we worked to reopen part of the Legalisation service, and for the feedback you have provided us with on your priorities and needs.

We have been authorised to re-open the business drop-off counter in Milton Keynes from Tuesday 7 April for existing customers of the service, subject to the following restrictions:

  • Customers will initially be limited to approximately 50% of their average daily volume when the service resumes to enable us to manage the resulting flood of applications. Registered users of the business counter will receive an email direct from the team informing them of their daily allowance. This limit will be kept under regular review, and as soon as we are able to increase the daily number of documents submitted we will let customers know.
  • We rely on customers of the counter to plan their applications accordingly, prioritising their backlog so that those with the most urgent need are submitted first.
  • The counter will initially be open for four days a week (Monday to Thursday) to enable us catch up on any backlogs which develop during the week and to ensure that we can continue to support urgent legalisations. This too will be reviewed regularly, and increased back to five-day opening as soon as we can.
  • We will not, for the moment, be increasing the number of registered users of the counter. This is to keep the number of customers arriving at our offices each day as low as possible in line with government guidance about minimising unnecessary travel. Any customers who wish to submit an application should do so through one of the existing agents registered with the service. Agents can be found by searching online for ‘UK Legalisation services’ or ‘UK Apostille services’, but please ensure that they are registered with the Legalisation Office as a business customer. Again, we will keep this under review in the light of any changes to government guidance on essential movements of people.
  • The urgent legalisations mailbox will remain open for any customers with very urgent requirements, especially those with one-off needs which might be less suitable for handling through an agent. Customers should continue to contact urgentlegalisation@fco.gov.uk to arrange this; we will not be able to accept any urgent documents which have not been initiated through this route.
  • Business drop-off customers attending the counter in Milton Keynes MUST:
    • Ensure that individuals attending the counter are fit and well
    • Ensure that all instructions about social distancing, queuing distances, hand hygiene and any directions given to them whilst they are on our premises are followed
    • Ensure that applications handed over the counter are securely wrapped in a clean plastic outer cover or box which can be wiped down by our staff, and that the papers within them have been handled by as few individuals as possible in a cleaned environment.
    • Respect the daily limits applied to them; any applications in excess of this will be returned without being processed.

I would be grateful if you could pass this on to your colleagues. The website will be open for business counter users to submit applications from today, and any customers with questions should contact your.businessapplication@fco.gov.uk and we will do our best to help.

March 2020

Information from FCO Legalisation Office – COVID19 – Details of alterations to service and closure of postal applications are available from this link.

January 2020

On the 10th January 2020, the 5th Money Laundering Directive was transposed into UK Law through amendments to the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017. New Guidance which is intended to summarise the key changes has been produced, for legal professionals that are in scope. It is not exhaustive and should be read in the context of the amended legislation. This guidance, which has been agreed by all members of the Legal Sector Affinity Group is interim and has not been formally approved by HM Treasury. Information contained in this document will be incorporated into full revised guidance, to be released as soon as possible.

December 2019

You will be aware that the new Notaries Practice Rules 2019 which were made on 3rd September came into force on the 2nd December this year.  These bring in changes designed to provide enhanced transparency around costs, services and redress/complaints information following the recommendations made by the CMA in their report on competition in the legal sector in late 2016.  The Rules set out the information which must now be given to clients at the outset of a matter and information which must appear on any website which you operate in relation to:

  • the basis upon which you calculate the fees for your services (price 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 (service information);
  • the level of insurance which your carry under your professional indemnity policy (redress 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 (complaint information); and
  • confirmation that you are ‘Regulated through the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury’ (regulatory information).

Early in the new year, we will be undertaking a review of websites to ensure that they comply with the new rules and will write to individuals where there is non-compliance giving a further period to make the required changes.  The inspectors will also be ensuring compliance with the new Rules as part of the 2020 inspection round.  The CMA has indicated that it will be undertaking a review of the progress which the Legal Sector have made against its recommendations in the second half of 2020.

You also need to be aware that on 10th January 2020 the 5th Money Laundering Directive is due to be transposed into UK Law and we anticipate revised Money Laundering Regulations and Legal Sector Guidance.  A guide to the key changes will be issued as soon as possible.  In the meantime, please stay alert to news on the implementation of the 5th Money Laundering Directive. The Directive can be accessed here.

Finally, the Legal Services Board has recently completed the latest round of its Regulatory Performance reporting which measures the Approved Regulators’ progress against 26 individual measures under five categories.  The latest report, published today, can be accessed here.  We are pleased to note that the assessment continues to show that the Faculty Office is making progress against the various measures and we will be taking steps early in the new year to address the shortcomings identified where the LSB feel that we are not making sufficiently rapid changes, particularly around the transparency of our regulatory decision making.

It only remains for me to wish you a very Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

With kind regards

Howard Dellar
Registrar
Office of the Court of Faculties

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