1The Referral Fees Regulations give the FCA investigation and sanctioning powers in relation to the contravention of the rules against referral fees contained in sections 56 to 60 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (the LASPO Act), as well as the contravention of requirements imposed by, or under, the Referral Fees Regulations.
1The FCA's approach to taking enforcement action under the Referral Fees Regulations will mirror its general approach to enforcing the Act, as set out in EG 2. It will seek to exercise its enforcement powers in a manner that is transparent, proportionate and responsive to the issue and consistent with its publicly stated policies. It will also seek to ensure fair treatment when exercising its enforcement powers. Finally, it will aim to change the behaviour of the person who is the subject of its action, to deter future non-compliance by others, to eliminate any financial gain or benefit from non-compliance and, where appropriate, to remedy the harm caused by the non-compliance.
1The FCA will notify the subject of the investigation that it has appointed investigators to carry out an investigation under the Referral Fees Regulations and the reasons for the appointment, unless notification is likely to result in the investigation being frustrated. In most cases, the FCA expects to carry out a scoping visit early on in the enforcement process. The FCA's policy in civil investigations under the Referral Fees Regulations is to use powers to compel information, in the same way as it would in the course of an investigation under the Act.
1The Referral Fees Regulations apply the procedural provisions of Part 9 of the Act, as modified by the Referral Fees Regulations, in respect of matters that can be referred to the Tribunal. Referral to the Tribunal in respect of decision notices given under regulation 26(1) of the Referral Fees Regulations are treated as disciplinary referrals for the purpose of section 133 of the Act.
1When determining whether to take action to impose a penalty or to issue a public censure under the Referral Fees Regulations, the FCA's policy includes having regard to the relevant factors in DEPP 6.2 and DEPP 6.4. When determining the level of financial penalty, the FCA's policy includes having regard to the relevant principles and factors in DEPP 6.5 to 6.5B, DEPP 6.5D and DEPP 6.7.
1When determining whether to take action to impose a suspension or restriction under the Referral Fees Regulations, the FCA's policy includes having regard to the relevant factors in DEPP 6A.2 and 6A.4. When determining the length of the period of suspension or restriction, the FCA's policy includes having regard to the relevant principles and factors in DEPP 6A.3. However, the FCA does not have the power to suspend an authorised person’s permission under the Referral Fees Regulations.