Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013
These regulations were required to be made by the European Union's Directive 2011/83/EU. They specify the circumstances in which consumers can cancel contracts and the related information which must be supplied by traders, and create a criminal offence. Legal Aid is not specifically excluded, but the regulations (in relation to the "Information requirements" Part 2 and the "Right to cancel" Part 3) state that "This Part does not apply to off-premises contracts under which the payment to be made by the consumer is not more than £42" (regulations 3(4) and 27(3)). In force 13/6/14.
Law Society, 'Law Society calls for legal aid to be exempt from consumer contract rules' (press release, 30/7/14)†. The Law Society has written a letter to the government calling for Legal Aid to be made exempt from the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. However, subject to the usual disclaimer, the following points should be considered: (1) The Law Society's reference to specific areas of legal aid work, including cases involving detained people such as mentally-ill people, does not take into account of regulations 7(4) and 27(3) which state that the 'information requirements' and 'right to cancel' parts of the regulations do not apply to off-premises contracts where the consumer pays the trader no more than £42. In this context the client is a consumer and the solicitor is a trader. Therefore, in any off-premises Legal Aid work where the client pays nothing to the solicitor, those regulations do not apply at all: this covers all mental health controlled work (all Legal Help and Controlled Legal Representation, including all Tribunal work) and all certificated work where the client does not pay a financial contribution. (2) Incidentally (as it is not relevant to mental health law), the Law Society's reference to Legal Aid telephone advice is based on a misunderstanding of regulation 36. Telephone contracts are distance (rather than off-premises) contracts so, while the regulations do apply, the client's request (for work to be done during the cancellation period) does not need to be on a durable medium. (3) If the client terminates the retainer the LAA would, as normal, have to pay the solicitor under the contract between them. (4) The government must obey the relevant European Union directive (2011/83/EU) and therefore lacks the power to amend the regulations in the manner sought by the Law Society. [The government did later say that the regulations do not apply to Legal Aid.]