“Find a Fraudster” online tool

13th September 2017 by

It has been reported that a recent negligence claim that was a result of a false entry on the Law Society’s “Find A Solicitor” has failed to be struck out.

This commonly used tool allows anybody to search for a solicitor in his or her area. This tool also identifies what specialism of law and what firm the solicitor is practising at. It also common for a law firm to carry out such a search when undertaking due diligence on a legal transaction.

In this case a law firm was dealing with a property transaction and identified the other sides solicitor through the “Find A Solicitor” tool. Unfortunately it was found later that the particular entry in the tool was made by a fraudster using a retired solicitor’s identity to gain a practising certificate.

The main ruling was delivered by Lord Justice Beatson who highlighted the reliance placed the tool within the industry and that its use was encouraged by the Law Society itself. Going beyond the remit of a regulatory duty, he mentioned that provision of the tool was more akin to marketing, stating that it goes further than the requirements of the regulator.

This is a very significant decision and for a number of reasons:

1. It relates to the circumstances in which a duty of care may arise regarding automatic responses to online enquiries and whether there should be a distinction between an automatic response from a website and a personal response in, by way of example, a telephone call.

2. If a duty of care is determined to exist in these circumstances, will it be of general application or only limited to conveyancing transactions.

3. It may have wider implication in circumstances where a regulator may be held liable for economic loss caused by the regulated person.

At Healys we take fraud very seriously and that’s why we continually seek to adopt searches, means and software to ensure that neither we or our clients become victims.

For more information on this topic or any service we offer please contact Robert Johnson on 020 7822 4000 or email robert.johnson@healys.com.