Axa’s decision this week to announce that it will no longer accept referral fees from whiplash factory law firms is, at face value, welcome news. However, we have hardly been deafened by the stampede of other insurers following suit.
Axa’s move is timed to appear to be a response to a call from former Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, to ban referral fees altogether.
Solicitors voted overwhelmingly some years ago for a ban and the Association of British Insurers have also been vocal in their support for a ban. However, despite what seems like a ground swell of opinion against referral fees, there is no immediate sign of a government move to ban them.
But is Axa’s example of self-sacrifice all it seems?
Rumour has it that with the Legal Services Act coming into force later this year, they are setting up their own in-house law firm, Knight Law Limited, to deal with accident claims on behalf of Axa policyholders. In this way they will generate even higher revenue than by taking referral fees. So it’s snouts back in the trough and business as usual then!