Department of Justice and Staff of the Federal Trade Commission Highlight Consumer Benefits of Expanding Competition for Legal Services
Agencies Urge North Carolina General Assembly to Consider the Competitive Benefits of Legislation Allowing Interactive Websites to Generate Legal Forms for Consumers
The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and the staff of the Federal Trade Commission have submitted a joint statement to the North Carolina legislature on the potential competition and consumer benefits of legislation that would allow websites to generate legal forms for consumers. Websites that offer this type of interactive software may be more cost-effective for some consumers, exert downward price pressure on licensed lawyer services, and promote more efficient and convenient access to legal services.
The agencies also noted that scope-of-practice laws can have valid consumer protection justifications. However, they recommend that such restrictions should be imposed only where there is credible evidence of likely harm to consumers. Any restrictions should be narrowly tailored to address the harm and not unnecessarily inhibit new and competitive ways to deliver legal services for the benefit of consumers.
“Competition between lawyers and non-lawyers for certain legal services can drive down prices, provide consumers with new and more convenient options, and expand access to legal services,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse of the Antitrust Division. “When analyzing House Bill 436, the North Carolina General Assembly should consider the benefits to consumers and competition that would result from allowing consumers to use interactive software to generate legal forms.”
The joint statement is in response to a request from North Carolina State Senator Bill Cook. The request asked for views on North Carolina House Bill 436, legislation that would exclude from the statutory definition of the practice of law the operation of a website that generates legal documents based on consumer responses to questions presented by interactive software, provided certain conditions are satisfied.