' One message was overwhelmingly clear from Lord Falconer's response: claims management companies have one last chance to make self-regulation work.Falconer said a "claims friendly" culture was having a negative impact in the UK.This culture, he said,"creates a fear of legislation, can make organisations risk-averse, cause local authorities to cancel events and cause doctors to practice defensive medicine". Most critically, he said, it undermines genuine claims.In its report, the Better Regulation Task Force, laid down some far-reaching recommendations on the regulation of claims farmers, the funding of litigation and the use of alternative dispute resolution.So is the government prepared to act on the advice of the task force? This is how Falconer responded to the task force recommendations.
Claims management companies. On regulation, the task force recommended the industry be given until December 2005 to put self-regulation in order. If progress is not made by then the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) should by appointed to regulate the sector.In his response, Falconer said the government wanted: Major changes in quality and behaviour
| Significant improvements to client service
|Renewed focus on improving transparency of processes and fees
| Better quality control
|Speedier conclusion to claims made
| Improvements in services provided to, and relationships with, solicitors, funders and insurers
|Self-regulation through the Claims Standards Council.
|On advice for consumers, the task force recommended that consumers should be made aware of their rights when dealing with claims management companies.The government responded: Improved consumer guidance will be offered through government websites The DCA will work with the Office of Fair Trading, the CSC and trade regulators to devise a method of aiding consumers with complaints against claims management companies Consumers will be made aware of what complaint procedures already in place through government websites.On advertising, the task force recommended that the chief medical officer and NHS chief executives should issue joint guidelines on the content of advertising on the premises of NHS hospitals and surgeries.Falconer said the government was: Strongly opposed to compensation claim adverts in NHS Trust premises. Current policy has been revised
| Critical of advertising which raises false hopes in consumers and encourages the "have a go" claim culture
Small Claims TrackThe task force recommended that the DCA should consider raising the personal injury claims limitThe government wants: Small claims injury unit to be revised. Research into benefits and costs of increasing £1,000 limit.
OmbudsmanThe task force said the overlaps between the work of the ombudsman should be closely scrutinised to establish where improvements should be made. The Ombudsman should better publicise its work to the public.
The government disagreed saying: Work of ombudsman does not have any overlapping responsibilities
| The Ombudsman is working to increase the public profile.
|On more consideration of mediation and rehabilitation, the task force recommended tighter rehabilitation regulations should be instigated. Parties refusing meditation or rehabilitation should be asked to explain why. This explanation should be considered when awarding costs.Falconer said: Parties must seriously consider resolving disputes through mediation
| Claimants should be encouraged to consider mediation prior to the court date and provide an explanation to the court that mediation has or has not been considered
| The DCA will contact Head of Civil Justice to make the necessary changes.
|On contingency fees, the task force recommended that research should be carried out by the DCA into the potential impact and effectiveness of contingency fees in securing access to justice.The government disagreed saying: Support for the reduced regulation and simplification of secondary legislation governing contingency fees
| Proposals detailed in DCA document Making Simple CFAs a reality would reduce regulation and make legal profession's conduct rules the primary means for regulating lawyer's conduct and approach to client care.
|On rehabilitation, the task force recommended a cross-departmental group should be established to assess the economic benefits of greater NHS-provided rehabilitation.The government said: The Department of Health will work with partners in government to improve rehabilitation services available on the NHS
| A study group has been established to identify where service improvements are needed.