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With the advent of multicentre research ethics committees in the UK, local research ethics committees (LRECs) are required to advise only on issues relating to the local acceptability of a project. We looked at the handling of two commercially sponsored studies, one initiated before the change and one after, confining the analysis to 21 LRECs approached in both. As judged by the amount of paper per application, the new system for LRECs is simpler and should be less costly. However, there was an increasing tendency for LRECs to charge for their services (30% study 1, 47% study 2) and these charges varied by more than 400%. If such fees must be levied, a common scale is desirable.