Malaysian Bar Defends Scale Fee Increase, Disagrees With MyCC And REHDA

The Malaysian Bar stands issued a press statement firmly behind the increase of scale fees chargeable for non-contentious matters under the Solicitors’ Remuneration Order 2023 which took effect on 15 July 2023.

It also said it wholly disagrees with the views set out by the Malaysia Competition Commission (“MyCC”), Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (“REHDA”), and an unnamed retired judge.

In the statement, President Karen Cheah Yee Lynn said she found it interesting to note that despite such statements stating that it is against the cost-of-living aspiration of the Government, the National House Buyers Association had issued a statement on 21 July 2023 with detailed analysis that this is not the case. In fact, the increase in scale fees is in tandem with the times, and while Malaysians are facing challenging times, professionals — including lawyers — are equally affected she added. HBA also added that the increase in legal fees will be offset by the increase in legal discounts in respect of purchases from licensed housing developers.

She pointed out that the legitimate right to regulate and review the scale fees chargeable for non-contentious matters is incontrovertible as it is stipulated in section 113 of the Legal Profession Act 1976.  It facilitates the establishment of a Solicitors Costs Committee (“SCC”) to decide on such review of costs.  The SCC consists of the Chief Judge of Malaya, a representative each from the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Office of the Chief Registrar of the Federal Court of Malaysia, and four representatives from the Malaysian Bar. Karen added that the Malaysian Bar that has the final say. 

The Malaysian Bar’s engagement with MyCC in 2015 established the position that the Malaysian Bar is well within its legitimate rights as the regulatory body of practising lawyers in Malaysia to recommend what is best for the legal profession.

Karen said the pressing down of legal fees or referral fees by such industry players is highly myopic as it does not guarantee the quality of services given by lawyers she added.

Adding that respect and recognition must be given to transactional lawyers handling such matters as there are many nuances involved including the legal effect of imposing terms and conditions unfavourable to clients under the Contracts Act 1950, stamp duty repercussions under the Stamp Act 1949, real property gains tax issues under the Real Property Gains Tax Act 1976, caveats under the National Land Code 1965, corporate-related matters under the Companies Act 2016, as well as Listing Requirements for public-listed companies. 

That is why regulatory bodies for professionals are entrusted to look into such matters to ensure that the quality of lawyers remains at its highest level and consumers are not short-changed for the sake of “cheap fees”.  Likewise, lawyers are prohibited from overcharging, and that is the public interest aspect to the scale fee structure, which acts to protect against overcharging.

On the calls for the abolition of scale fees are not new at all, Karen said those who have been long enough in legal practice will know that this is an issue that has been debated and decided on several times over the years by the general body of the Malaysian Bar, and the Bar Council will uphold these decisions.

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