As the Competition and Markets Authority investigate so-called “Quickie Divorce” providers, what problems have they identified?
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Google ‘Get a Divorce’ and you face a host of paid adverts for services promising a ‘quick’ and ‘easy’ service:
- “Quickee divorce”
- “Get a divorce in weeks for £199 – no courts and no solicitor fees”
- “24 hour service – start your fast divorce today”
Too good to be true? Absolutely!
And now a report by the BBC reveals that so-called ‘quickie divorce’ services have come under the scrutiny of the UK’s competition watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). There have long been concerns about these unregulated services, which have grown in popularity since lockdown.
Among the issues identified are:
- a lack of clear information;
- inadequate service levels;
- poor quality advice; and
- high-pressure sales tactics.
Typically, these companies market themselves as a low-cost alternative to solicitors but also imply a faster turnaround, not being bound by the supposed ‘red tape’ of regulation.
Chief Executive of the CMA, Sarah Cardell, said:
“These may not be frequent purchases, but they are life-changing. That’s why it’s so important that we investigate so that people can select the right legal service for them – for divorce or probate or will-writing – with confidence. It’s essential that firms get the basics right, including complying with general consumer law which applies to all traders. Customers must get a fair deal.”
What problems have the CMA identified?
Among the concerns identified are:
- Misleading people about the simplicity of the divorce process, especially concerning finances. The often-unqualified staff are unable to offer the advice needed.
- People are initially unaware that they are receiving inadequate advice. Ultimately, this means they must often pay even more as taking separate advice from a solicitor becomes necessary.
- The lack of training often results in inadequate service levels, including using the wrong forms, providing incorrect details, and missing deadlines – all of which causes delay and increases costs.
- People report a lack of effective communication from the ‘quickie divorce’ provider, meaning they are unaware of where they are in the process. There are also reports of panicked demands for information when the person dealing realises a deadline is looming or has passed.
- Clients have limited or no protection if a ‘quickie divorce’ provider ceases to operate. Documents and information can be lost, and people left unaware of where they are procedurally.
Unregulated online divorce providers have no professional standards to comply with. A lack of training and experience often means inadequate advice and even the most straightforward divorce can descend into a myriad of issues to unpick, with a high chance of a poor outcome for you.
You may then spend far more time and money than if you instruct a solicitor in the first place. Our experience is that additional work is often required to correct earlier mistakes. That can include work to unravel a financial agreement reached without the benefit of proper legal advice. Indeed, when complex assets such as pensions and businesses are involved, using a ‘quickie divorce’ provider can prove disastrous.