CONTROVERSIAL law firm Asons has agreed to repay an insurance company almost £70,000 after admitting to falsely inflating its legal costs.

Asons exaggerated the qualifications and experience of its legal staff ‘systematically’, to make the bills sent to AXA Insurance artificially higher in 65 personal injury cases .

Asons admitted that it was systematically attempting to present false and misleading information on an organised basis to exaggerate their claim for costs.

But they denied acting fraudulently.

AXA began a review of a number of cost claims involving Asons in last January.

It followed the case of Kevin Dale v Schroff UK Ltd at Manchester County Court in July, 2015.

Asons claimed the member of staff, or ‘fee earner’, working on that case had more than six years of litigation experience. In fact, they had less than two years.

Law firms set their fees based on the time spent working on a case, the location from which the case is handled and the seniority of the ‘fee earner’ involved.

Firms charge more when the most senior lawyers, typically called in on high profile or complex matters, handle cases.

Asons claimed the increased fee was down to an administrative error, but the court sanctioned the company for misconduct.

AXA's investigations unearthed 65 further cases, settled between September, 2013 and December, 2014, where Asons had inflated their legal costs with false representations about the fee earners.

As part of the settlement for these 65 claims, Asons has agreed to pay AXA more than £40,000 in legal costs, as well as the near £70,000 in damages and interest.

Asons could face sanction from Solicitors Regulation Authority

The news comes after Asons was at the centre of a huge row following an exclusive Bolton News report revealed that it had received a £300,000 grant from Bolton Council to help with the redevelopment of its new headquarters in Newspaper House, Churchgate.

Gian Luigi di Franco, claims manager at AXA said: “We are delighted to have settled our dispute with Asons and that they have admitted to exaggerating the experience of their legal staff to inflate their legal costs.

“This is just the kind of behaviour that the insurance industry has been highlighting for years now, behaviour that is fuelling a compensation culture across the country.

"This was a systematic attempt to secure funds that Asons ought to have known they were not entitled to.

"We hope and expect that this victory sends a strong message to those in the claimant lawyer fraternity who would undermine the reputation of and trust in their profession purely in the pursuit of money."

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An Asons spokesman said: “We take matters like this very seriously. Following a complaint by AXA, an internal investigation was immediately undertaken.

"We reported the matter to our Regulator and any overpayments were returned. New procedures were instigated and we are satisfied that there has been no reoccurence of the historical issues raised by AXA.”