On the 6th January 2012 HSBC introduced their conveyancing panel which is marketed “to assist mortgage customers” who will benefit from “competitive fixed fees” as well as “speed, efficiency and consistent quality of service”!!….. please do not insult our intelligence !! Why am I so sceptical … just look at the facts. The panel consists of 43 firms which are there to serve HSBC’s customers nationwide, all of which are to be managed by Countrywide….. Over 1000 firms qualify to be on the panel but there has been no advertising of the fact that it was being created and only 43 have signed up. No information is provided as to who is on the panel nor how you can become a member, it appears to be a very closed shop. HSBC has fixed low headline legal fees but has not published the disbursements and hidden additional costs such as TT fees and SDLT administration charges. HSBC make a point of the fact that there is an online facility for clients to keep up to date with the progress of their matter but this is not a new idea and such facilities have not proved very successful. A client is free to use their own solicitor however they will have to pay £192.00 for the privilege of the panel firm acting on behalf of the bank.
The only new concept is the fact that clients now have to pay for freedom of choice in the event that their own conveyancer is not one of the chosen 43. The rest of the marketing has been seen in various guises particularly with certain nationwide estate agents and sausage factory legal firms. The clients are hoodwinked into thinking they will be receiving a premium service at a competitive price when the reality is that the hidden extras usually add up to daylight robbery and as for the service, previous experience of such set ups is not of a premium service but quite the opposite. It seems strange that the agents continue to sell such a service to the customer, well maybe not, there is always the referral fee to consider.
The suggestion that a bank is setting up a scheme for the benefit of its customers rather than as a means of the bank making additional profit is also not borne out by experience of the banks track record, remember the PPI insurance rip off scandal and the litigation over bank charges to mention only two recent examples…. Customers beware!