CMA Launches Consumer Enforcement Investigation

The news broke on 24 July 2023 that following consumer complaints about providers offering quick online divorces, will writing and pre-paid probate, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an investigation into the unregulated sector to look at potential consumer law breaches.

The Society of Will Writers (SWW) welcomes meaningful investigation and Members will be pleased to know we are already involved in the project. SWW Director Anthony Belcher met with the CMA in June to discuss the issues raised and provide perspective on the protections that the SWW provides — backed up with information about the requirements placed on Members, including insurance, mandatory CPD and the Code of Practice, with expressions of the excellent work and services Members provide to consumers and extremely low numbers of complaints against Members, the meeting overall proved worthwhile.

On the announcement of the investigation, Anthony comments:

In such great volume SWW Members provide a direct alternative to regulated services that for almost 30 years have been meeting consumer needs. SWW Members are trained, insured, and adhere to a strict Code of Practice to ensure that their clients receive the best possible services that meet the standards the SWW expects. In addition, the SWW has introduced many other supporting mechanisms for both professionals and consumers over the years, such as our bespoke technical advice and Public Indemnity Fund, and as an organisation we continue to champion our member’s efforts with the likes of government, regulators and other key industry stakeholders.

The SWW has specifically outlawed the introduction and sale of pre-paid probate plans, something which is written directly into its Code. We welcome meaningful investigations into the unregulated sector and continue to be involved in such to ensure that our member’s voices are heard, their needs and concerns are met and above all, they receive the recognition they deserve for the excellent work they do.

The SWW will continue to be involved in the investigation and will prepare its own response ahead of the 4 September 2023 deadline. We invite Members to contribute to our response and ask that they send any comments to [email protected] for us to collate before the end of business on Friday 25 August 2023.

It should be noted that the project is at an early stage and the CMA has not yet formed a view on these issues. For more information, please click here.

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  • Stephen Oliver

    26th July 2023 at 9:41 am

    I feel investigations are a must. In order to validate what we do and pick up any short comings, reviews are the key.
    With this in mind I shall be asking for comments from my own regions members and pass any on that I receive to The SWW.


  • Alexander Gordon Smillie

    28th July 2023 at 1:37 pm

    I understand that the number of complaints against members of the SWW over many years is incredibly small which would seem to indicate that the rules of membership, compliance and customer service/satisfaction are followed to a very high degree.

    In saying that, one complaint is too many, but in comparison to other professions/industries I believe that the members provide a much needed service at a very high level to a grateful public.


  • Ian Brammer

    31st July 2023 at 12:38 pm

    I believe regulation of Will Writing/estate planning is inevitable and should be welcomed. By regulated I do not mean making it a restricted activity, which I believe would be harmful to the public if only Solicitors can write Wills it reduces choice and competition to the consumer. SWW members have all agreed to be voluntarily regulated and maintain certain standards, I do not see why making society a self-regulatory organization should be feared. it would inevitably involve some changes to our working practices but if that leads to consumers having more confidence in SWW members that can only be a positive. Has an ex Mortgage Broker I have been through this process before from Mortgages advisers not being regulated via self-regulation to statuary regulation of the FCA. I think taking it to FCA regulation is unnecessary and expensive, I doubt the FCA would want Estate planning under their remit, they have a lot to regulate already. To me, it makes sense to allow people who understand the market and already regulate it, the authority to do the job properly. Currently, no matter how bad you are SWW cannot prevent you from trading, they can only stop you from trading as a society member. A fully regulated market would stop a lot of bad practices and miss leading advertising.
    My biggest concern is that if we do not embrace voluntary regulation, regulation will be forced upon us and politicians will decide how we should be regulated.


  • Nigel Bevan

    4th August 2023 at 5:01 pm

    My view on mandatory regulation is it can provide some protection for the consumer in ensuring a level of knowledge is acquired. This does not however protect the consumer from bad advice or poor service. I speak from experience as a manager of financial advisers in the banking industry. When regulation came in it did not reduce consumer complaints. The industry continued to make many product led mistakes for example endowment policies for mortgage repayment. Eventually the banking sector withdrew from giving financial advice due to risk leaving consumers with far less choice. If regulators do decide to cover Will Writers then I hope that being a member of the Society and abiding by its rules is considered as enough evidence of fit and proper status.


  • Gary Taylor

    16th August 2023 at 11:13 am

    As an Affiliate member, but also a fully regulated IFA, I am used to regulation, and feel our balance of self regulation via codes of conduct/ongoing cpd etc is by far the best way to protect our businesses and our clients interests.
    However, I also feel that schemes such as prepaid probate should fall into a regulatory area just as prepaid funeral plans have, to give “enhanced protection” where it is needed and hopefully not fully regulate all of our industry.


  • Tony Kershaw -

    19th August 2023 at 12:02 pm

    Regulation is something to be welcomed, and only feared by those whose standards and propriety do not achieve the levels expected by consumers and professionals alike.


  • Mark Newey

    31st August 2023 at 10:04 am

    The service provided by the SWWEP is second to none, their rules and regulations, audits, and technical support and ongoing education is very professional and up to date. Regulation comes to us all and as the SWWEP are currently doing the conversation should still be taking place with FCA so that when regulation does come and it will, the transition is simple and the client notices no change and it encourages more people to write and review their Wills.

    The most important matter here is to look after the client in order that their wishes are enshrined in law for themselves and the future of their loved ones. Most Will Writers who are not Solicitors work with Financial advisers and or a Chartered Tax Advisers to provide Inheritance Tax Planning advice and strategies and Pensions education and advice to help the client.

    I agree with the SWWEP that an effective will writing sector that is not ‘reserved’ is in the best interest of consumers.

    Keep up to date and looking after and helping your clients.


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About The Society of Will Writers

The Society of Will Writers is a non-profit making self-regulatory organisation whose primary objectives are the advancement, education and ethical standards within the will writing profession.

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