Lawyers’ price-fixing challenge success

The complaint by ‘Fairness in Fees’ to the European Commission challenging price-fixing by the Cyprus Bar Association (CBA) has been successful; their minimum fee regulations will soon be consigned to the bin.

THE MINIMUM fee regulations for lawyers in Cyprus, which are set by the Cyprus Bar Association (CBA), will soon be a thing of the past thanks to a successful challenge by ‘Fairness in Fees‘, a London-based organisation founded by Greek Cypriot George Lambis, which submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission in 2016. Fairness in Fees claimed that the rules mandating the minimum lawyers can charge for out-of-court cases were in clear breach of the price-fixing and cartel provisions of Article 101 of the European Treaty and therefore of European law. The European Commission has upheld their complaint, which has forced the Ministry of Justice to submit a bill to parliament abolishing the power of the CBA to set minimum fees for out of court work. The soon-to-be-abolished minimum fee regulations set out formulas for calculating lawyers’ fees irrespective of the time spent on the matter or the complexity of the case. Under the regulations, a straightforward out-of-court execution of a will in which property of €1 million is to be distributed among the beneficiaries would incur €56,000 in legal fees. Similar work in the UK, for example, would likely incur no more than €5,000 in fees. The bill should be discussed at the next plenary session of parliament; it will replace the minimum fee regulations with the power to regulate the manner and procedure for resolving any disputes arising with regard to lawyers’ fees for out-of-court work. The changes must be implemented as the Commission will start infringement proceeding against the Republic of Cyprus, which could result in the EU Court of Justice imposing substantial fines on the Cypriot state if it fails to act. It’s also worth noting that there is no upper limit on the amount lawyers charge for out-of-court work. This enables disreputable lawyers to plunder estates when executing wills. In one case brought to my attention beneficiaries who were left three apartments in their aunt’s will had to give one of the apartments to a lawyer who was appointed to act as the executor of her estate. Anyone wishing to appoint a lawyer as the executor of their estate MUST AGREE THEIR LAWYER’S FEES beforehand and have these written into their will to avoid the risk of their estate being plundered

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