Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Claim Procedure Reforms Will Affect Smaller Claims

 Stafford CourtWith all the hoop-la about the proposed change to the ‘no win, no fee’ regime, another set of proposals, which may well be of greater importance for many people has slipped under the radar of the popular press.

 
A new consultation paper proposes changes to the limits on claims to be heard by the lower courts. The proposals include:
 
  • the limit of a claim which can be dealt with in the small claims court is to be increased from the current £5,000 to £15,000; and
  • the minimum limit for a case to be sent to the High Court is to be raised from £25,000 to £100,000; and
 
In addition, the online system for settlement of smaller road traffic accident cases is to be adapted for use in all small personal injury cases up to £50,000 in value and trialled for use in claims for clinical negligence against the NHS.

Is Your Intellectual Property Protected?

Today is World Intellectual Property Day and the global members of the World Intellectual Property Office have joined forces to help raise awareness of how patents, copyright, trade marks and designs affect everyday lives. This year’s theme is ‘Designing the Future’.

 
Innovators and creative minds across the country are being encouraged to protect their inventions and ideas to help design the future. Designs are about the way an object looks and developers can invest a lot of time and money into making sure their designs are fit for purpose.
 
Minister for Intellectual Property Baroness Wilcox said, “Designs touch almost every part of our day to day lives, from the chairs we sit on to the phones we use. Registering your design with the Intellectual Property Office can offer protection against unauthorised copies and imitations.
 
“We are keen to encourage businesses to get their designs protected to allow them to reap the potential financial rewards of their innovations. Many people are unaware that you can register a design for just £60, granting exclusive rights that are renewable for up to 25 years.
 
“Today is about raising awareness of the importance to businesses of protecting their innovative ideas. Investing in their creativity and ideas now can help shape growth and success in the future.”
 
Further information on World Intellectual Property Day can be found on the IPO website at www.ipo.gov.uk.
 
If you have an invention, trade mark, original design or the practical application of a good idea that you wish to protect, contact us.

Banks Receive PPI Compensation Setback

Offixe 23The long-running battle between banks and their customers over alleged mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI) plans took another step forward last week when the High Court dismissed a challenge brought by the banks that guidance on such policies issued by the Financial Services Authority on sales of insurance did not apply to PPI policies.

 
PPI policies were sold aggressively by banks to customers who took out loans. They insure the person taking the loan against redundancy and illness, with the insurer covering any loan payments due during the period of incapacity or unemployment. The cost of the policy was normally added to the loan on day one, meaning that if the debt was paid off early, premiums had been paid unnecessarily. Typically, a PPI policy would add more than 20 per cent to the loan.
 
The move paves the way for customers to receive refunds of premiums paid. However, an appeal by the banks is likely and, even if unsuccessful, the estimated £4.5 billion cost will inevitably end up being met by the current customers of the banks, most probably through the demise of free bank accounts.
 

If you have suffered a loss through being mis-sold a financial product, you may be able to obtain redress. Contact us for advice

Supreme Court Next Stop in Legal Privilege Case

As expected, insurer the Prudential is to appeal to the Supreme Court following the Court of Appeal’s decision that communications with its tax advisers (a leading firm of accountants) relating to its tax planning were not professionally privileged.

 
Legal professional privilege is a doctrine that applies to communications between legal advisers and their clients and means that communications passing between them cannot normally be required to be used in evidence in court.
 
The Supreme Court granted leave of appeal to the Prudential on 14 April. The Prudential argues that it is unfair that only communications with its legal advisers are privileged, claiming that communications with other professional advisers advising on quasi-legal matters should also be privileged.
 
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales is backing the appeal.
 

CFOs Less Optimistic

Chief financial officers (CFOs) are increasingly concerned that the UK may be headed for a ‘double-dip’ recession, according to a survey by accountants Deloitte.

 
The survey found that 29 per cent of CFOs predicted a double-dip and that optimism is at the lowest level in two years.
 
If you are concerned about difficulties with collecting debts, meeting your financial obligations, the availability of finance or protecting your business from trade risk we may be able to help.

Bridge is Sport –Official

Hitchin bridge club has successfully registered itself as a charity under the Charities Act. The application was successful after the Charity Commission accepted that sitting down for a few rubbers of the world’s most popular card game was a game of mental skill and exertion which qualifies as a sport under the legislation.

 
The Charity Commission considered that it met the criteria because of:
 
  • The level and degree of mental skill and exertion required;
  • The potential health benefits from the exercise of the mental skill and exertion; and
  • The public benefit conferred.
 
The club had produced evidence that bridge has beneficial effects as regards dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
 
If you wish to set up a charitable organisation, we can advise you of the legal requirements and your legal  obligations.

Problems of Insolvent Landlords

It is not only tenants that go broke: increasingly, overstretched landlords are becoming insolvent.

 
If you are a commercial tenant coming up for a rent review, it makes sense to do some investigation into your landlord’s finances and to make sure that you protect your position if necessary.
 
If you have paid a rent deposit and it is not legally separate from the landlord’s other assets, it may be lost if the landlord becomes insolvent. Check your lease. It may be possible to persuade your landlord to refund the deposit or agree to vary the lease to allow the deposit to be protected.
 
If the landlord fails to comply with its covenants it is possible that the breach may be sufficiently serious to allow you to repudiate the lease.
 
However, one of the most common problems arises where the insolvent landlord is itself a tenant and defaults on its covenants with the head landlord. If this results in the forfeiture of the landlord’s lease, this could lead to the loss of the right to occupy the premises.
 
If you have concerns about what your position would be in the even of the insolvency of your landlord, we can advise you and assist in any necessary negotiations.

EU Cleans Up Soap Business

Soap power giants Proctor and Gamble and Unilever have been fined more than £280 million by the European Commission after being found guilty of price fixing. The pair were investigated after a ‘whistleblower’ informed on their collaboration in setting prices.

 
The two companies admitted running a cartel on soap powder prices in several EU countries between 2002 and 2005.
 
EU competition law is the strongest in the world and companies which adopt anti-competitive prices are routinely heavily fined when caught. In the UK, competition law is enforced by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). The OFT recently fined Renkitt Benckiser more than £10 million for abusing its dominant position as a supplied of Gaviscon.
 
Competition law affects small businesses as well as large ones. For more information on competition law, click here. Call us for detailed advice on how to comply with competition law.

The Protection of Freedoms Bill – ‘A Return to Common Sense Government

The Coalition Government has published the Protection of Freedoms Bill 2010/2011, which contains a wide range of measures aimed at ending the unnecessary scrutiny of law-abiding individuals.
 
If enacted, the Bill will result in:
 
  • a radical reform of the vetting and barring scheme that will see a large reduction in the number of individuals requiring checks to just those who work most closely with children and vulnerable adults;
  • DNA samples and fingerprints of innocent people being deleted from police databases;
  • an end to town hall snoopers checking householders’ rubbish bins or school catchment area;
  • the scrapping of Section 44 powers, which have been used to stop and search hundreds of thousands of innocent people;
  • the permanent reduction of the maximum period of pre-charge detention for terrorist suspects to 14 days;
  • gay men being able to clear their name with the removal of out-of-date convictions for consensual acts; and
  • thousands of motorists protected from rogue wheel clamping firms.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who has been instrumental in shaping the contents of the Bill said, “The Freedoms Bill will protect millions of people from state intrusion in their private lives and mark a return to common sense government.”
Other measures included in the Bill include:
  • an end to the fingerprinting of children in schools without parental consent;
  • the introduction of a code of practice for CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems;
  • restrictions on the powers of government departments, local authorities and other public bodies to enter private homes and other premises for investigations and a requirement for all to examine and slim down remaining powers;
  • the repeal of powers to hold serious and complex fraud trials without a jury;
  • the liberalisation of marriage laws to allow people to marry outside the hours of 8am-6pm; and
  • the extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act and strengthening the public rights to data.
The Government’s aim is that the Bill will be enacted by late 2011 or early 2012.

Private Emails Lead to the Sack

A recent decision of the Employment Tribunal (ET) illustrates that care should be taken over any private communication made out of working hours if this contains material or expresses views that would fall foul of your employer’s equal opportunities policy and/or Internet policy. In certain circumstances, you could face disciplinary action should the communication end up in the public domain and reflect badly on your employer.

 
The case concerned a man who worked for the charity Lifeline Projects Ltd., which provides help to drug users and works closely with HM Prison Service (HMPS). Whilst working on assignment to HMPS, he forwarded a chain email to a colleague from his home computer outside working hours. The email, which contained racist remarks and images of naked women, was headed ‘It is your duty to pass this on’. The colleague in turn forwarded the offensive email to an HMPS employee at his work email address and it came to the attention of the management of the prison where he worked. The prison employee was offered early retirement and the charity worker was suspended from doing any further work for HMPS as a result.
Lifeline Projects Ltd. subsequently dismissed its worker for gross misconduct that had caused damage to the charity’s reputation. He claimed that he had been unfairly dismissed.
 
The ET ruled that the dismissal was fair, however. The fact that the offensive chain email stated, in a prominent position, that it should be passed on meant that the charity worker could not have expected it to remain private and it was through his actions that it had made its way onto the computer system of HMPS, one of Lifeline’s biggest clients.
 
Devotees of Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites take note!