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Singapore abolishes conveyancing scale fees

10 September 2003

Ironically, the members of the Law Society of Singapore would still like to have the Conveyancing Practice Law Committee issue fee guidelines. Different modes of charging, types of conveyancing transactions and the sizes of firms were considered. The guidelines therefore represent an attempt to help the solicitor and client reach an agreement as to what is a fair and reasonable fee given the circumstances of the transfer.

These circumstances include:

  • the importance of the matter to the client,
  • the skill, labour, specialised knowledge and responsibility involved on the part of the solicitor,
  • the complexity of the matter and the difficulty or novelty of the question raised,
  • the amount or value of the property,
  • the time expended by the solicitor,
  • the number and importance of the documents prepared or perused, without regard to the length, and
  • the place where, and the circumstances under which, the services or business or any part thereof are rendered or transacted.
A few years ago a majority of solicitors wanted the fee scale to remain because the free market would lead to increased shoddiness, negligence and inadequate services for consumers. Pro abolition advocates argued that the scale insulated the incompetent. According to Arfat Selvam, President of the Law Society of Singapore, "If we don't have guidelines, then everyone will try and undercut one another and the fees will become ridiculously low. You can ask, isn't that good for the public? Not really so, because for every service, there must be a minimum fee so that proper work is done."

Singapore might be far away but the issues are not and eventual acceptance of the abolition of scale fees is very topical. In this month's De Rebus editorial - Competition blues - Philip van der Merwe draws our attention to the consultation process which has started between the Law Society and the Competition Commission regarding fee guidelines and any other rules and practices which could be considered anti-competitive.

Law Society of Singapore

De Rebus.org.za website

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