Beware of over-billing by lawyers

Some lawyers are over-billing their clients in conveyancing matters, warns Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP).

CAP president S.M. Mohamed Idris said buyers and sellers did not need to file the real property gains tax (CHKT) Forms 1 and 2 for property sales and purchases following the abolishment of the Real Property Gains Tax, which came into effect on April 1 last year.

“No legal fees should be charged for transactions occurring after that date. If a solicitor has charged a full-scale fee, there should be no separate or additional charges for preparing the statutory declaration.

“But there are still lawyers, who do not adhere to the Solicitors Remuneration Order (SRO) 2005 under Section 113 of the Legal Profession Act,” he said in a statement.

Mohamed Idris said lawyers could face disciplinary proceedings and might be suspended from practice for not more than five years for breaching the SRO ruling.

He also called on the Bar Council to take action against lawyers who flout the ruling by conducting random checks on their Bill of Costs.

He said certain disbursements for high charges like processing fee for consent, filing fee for Power of Attorney, affirmation fees and search fees should be substantiated by the lawyer.

He also advised clients to request solicitors to submit proof or official receipts.

Bar Council Conveyancing Practice committee chairman Andrew Wong said clients were entitled to ask solicitors for an account of actual disbursement.

“We also conduct random check from time to time when the Bar Council receives more than one complaint against a solicitor,” he explained.

Wong also said the public could contact the Conveyancing Practice Committee at 03-20313003 or call the Bar Council’s hotline on 03-20319943 if they feel they had been overcharged. - By The Star

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