Scales of costs or charges 1

This story has come from one of our readers who practiced as a NSW solicitor for more than 30 years.

He says that, as long as he’d been a NSW solicitor, there’d been a scale of costs or charges which said how much to charge when acting on conveyancing matters – for instance, if he was acting on a $500,000 purchase with a $400,ooo mortgage, there was a book that said how much to charge. AND, and that sigmificantly, it was regarded as malpractice, you could be “struck off,” if you advertised that you charged less than this book said, and/or, in fact, charged less than the book said.

Further, that, under this regime, by 1991, he had built up a thriving practice specialising in conveyancing, employing 32 solicitors and staff which could hardly cope with all the work it was getting. But that, in November 1991, everything changed.

A Professor Alan Fels, a so-called expert on competition, as far as we’re concerned, a preposterous imposter, (one of the three people in the world we hate the most!) had put it forward as fact that the scale of charges was restricting competition, when, of course, this was rubbish, unbelievable rubbish – it was the fact that you HAD to charge what the scale of charges said that was restricting competition. But Nick Greiner, the NSW Premier at the time, fell for this rubbish, and laws were enacted that, firstly, said that NSW solicitors COULD advertise, and secondly, that they no longer HAD to charge what the scale of charges said – which meant the scale of charges had become irrelevant, and was no longer referred to.

So, overnight, the conveyancing industry was changed from one in which an honest quid could be made into one in which you literally HAD to be a “crook” to survive! As a consequence, all at once, there were “crooks” everywhere advertising that they would do conveyancing matters for ridiculously low charges. Our reader says that he had inside information that one these “crooks,” perhaps the most prominent one, was having to spend all day every day explaining to clients how it was that, when it came to the settlement of their matters, their costs were so much more than they’d expected. But, of course, by that time the clients were “over a barrel,” as the old saying goes – it was too late to transfer to another solicitor, they had to “pay up” or their matter wouldn’t be settled.

Our reader says that he’s always saying that, (a) he didn’t really realise he had to become a “crook” to survive, and, (b) that even if he had, he wouldn’t have made a very good “crook!” And so, some five years later, after what seemed to him to be like 5 years of a long slow death, with more and more work going to the “crooks,” and his practice getting less work, he had to close it’s doors, and go bankrupt.

The fact is, and this is the point of this story, the scale of charges should have been kept as a point of reference – that solicitors could have advertised, saying things like, “We charge 5%, or 10%, or 15% less than the scale of charges says, or whatever,” which, among there things, would have made it very easy to check whether they’d charged what they’d said they would.

But our reader claims that he sent numerous letters by email to Alan Fels, Nick Greiner, and the NSW Law Society, pointing this out, but didn’t ever get even one sensible reply.

But there are three further points to this story.

Firstly, that, as we’ve come to realise recently, there should be scales of costs in all areas, no more so than when it comes to medical procedures.

Secondly, that there COULD be such scales of costs in all areas, even with medical procedures, that with modern communication technology it would be easy to put together such scales, perhaps rough and ready, but still incredibly helpful.

Thirdly, that from our past experiences there would seem to be no money in doing this.

As an example, with TURP operations, described as follows:-

We already know , from the experience of one of our readers, that Dr Andrew Brooks, Urologist, charged $3,200 for carrying out this procedure, which we understand took him less than an hour, and this was in 2014, so he would probably be charging more, perhaps much more, in 2020. And we believe that every Urologist in Sydney, who has an ordinary email address, could be emailed asking how much they charge, and the charges listed, in less that 2 days. And that this could be done with every conceivable surgical procedure, with the lists being produced being SO useful and helpful to SO many people.

By the way, we’d be astonished if lots of Sydney Urologists would be charging way less than Andrew Brooks charged in 2014, even in 2020 – although we could be wrong. Perhaps he could be emailed to find out – but in our experience Brooks hasn’t responded to an email in his whole life.

Of course, the “good guys” would cooperate, and the “crooks” would hate the idea.

(Perhaps there are such lists already in existence which we don’t know about. Perhaps readers know of some which they could let us know about and which we could share.)

As we say, from our experiences in the past, there’s probably no money in it – perhaps if there was, it would be being done! But, if this is the case, couldn’t Premier Berejiklian be allocating one or two public servants, it would probably only take one, to be putting these lists together.

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