Thursday, 30 April 2015

Consumer Law - Know your rights!

The rights of a consumer will depend on the type of business and the agreement or terms and conditions of the trader. Consumer rights can be divided into 3 main categories:

The Sale of Goods Acts

Under this Act, goods sold to a consumer must be of a reasonable quality, fit for their intended purpose and must match any descriptions which have been given on the product. It is common thought that there is a fixed time limit for rejecting goods which are not of reasonable quality for instance. However it is important to be aware that there is no such time limit and the only obligation required is to notify and claim against the seller within a reasonable time.

The Sales of Goods Act also covers services, which requires that the service is provided with reasonable skill and care within a reasonable time. The right to return  goods based on the consumer not being happy with the product is also a myth. Although the vast majority of retailers will accept returns even when the goods are not faulty or as described, they are not any under obligation to do so. This type of returns policy is more of a goodwill gesture.

With this in mind, traders should be aware that if they do not offer a returns policy for non-faulty items, then that time limit will not apply if a consumer wishes to return goods which are faulty and the consumer has notified the trader within a reasonable time.

Distance Selling/Consumer Regulations

The supply of goods and services 'at a distance' which include products bought over the internet or phone for example are now covered by the Consumer Contracts Regulations (Consumer Regulations). It is important to be aware that Consumer Regulations can be rather complex and traders should be aware that:

  • there is an obligation as a business supplying goods or services at a distance to give consumers a no questions asked 14-day right to cancel their order.
  • an easy way to cancel their order needs to be provided
  • a specific form for cancelling must be given to consumers
  • traders must make consumers aware about a consumers right to cancel
However there are some products and services such as personalised items or perishable goods which are exempt from this right to cancel.

If a trader fails to inform consumers of their right to cancel, the consumer will be entitled to up to a year to cancel the contract and receive a full refund.  It is a criminal offence if they fail to tell consumers about their cancellation rights.

Delivery costs can also be confusing. The consumer is required to pay for the return shipping but must be refunded for any delivery costs paid.

If a consumer asks for services to commence during the 14 day cancellation period, whilst they still have a right to cancel, the consumer will lose their right to a refund  for the services which were provided up to the cancellation. However it is important that the consumer agrees to this.

The regulations also prohibit pre-ticking boxes for additional charges and there are separate regulations which prevent charging an exaggerated mark up for credit card payments.

Unfair Contract Terms

The Unfair Contract Terms Act and the Unfair terms in Consumer Contract Regulations help to protect consumers against unfair contract terms. Unfair terms cannot be enforced against a consumer.

Unfair terms can include:
  • unreasonably excluding liability
  • unreasonable timescales given to consumers for complaints and disputes
  • biased cancellation policies
  • supplier changing the price of goods without consumers knowledge
 As a result, traders should ensure that their terms and conditions meet the requirements of fair.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Is employers liability insurance legally required?

What is employers liability insurance?

Employers’ liability insurance protects employers from liabilities such as staff illness or injury at work.

Is employers liability insurance legally required?

A recent survey on 1,507 SME's from Aviva has revealed that 11% or 1 in 10 SME's are unaware that employers' liability insurance is a legal requirement. Further results showed that SME's only believed it was only a legal requirement if the business had more than 1 employee. In addition to this, figures from the Health and Safety Executive suggested that employers without the liability insurance are at “risk of fines of £2,500 for every day the business is not properly insured”.

Out of the 1,507 SME's studied, 29% were confident they had the right cover whilst 12% admitted to not having any business insurance at all. Aviva also went on to discover that the priority of having business insurance differed depending on how long the business had been running. A quarter of SME's who have been operating for less than a year, had no insurance, whilst 5% of businesses which have been operating for around 8-10 years had none.

The managing director of commercial lines at Aviva, Angus Eaton has argued that "SMEs need a strong understanding of their legal obligations and how they can protect their business and employees to keep it trading. One claim without adequate cover could easily be enough to put severe financial pressure on an organisation or even close it down completely.”

Looking to protect your business should a claim arise?

MTA Business Legal Advance is an upfront membership club which allows you to protect your business and access immediate legal assistance when you need it most. Your business could encounter a legal issues at any time, whether it be an HR issue, employment contract or trading dispute, a regulatory, property management or office premises problem.

Who would you call for immediate legal assistance? How would you pay?

With MTA Business Legal Advance membership you have instant access to legal advice across all our services and peace of mind that your costs will be less if you need to use a Solicitor.

Find out more at or simply call us 0208 437 0880.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Landlords to register deposits or risk facing a fine

Buy-to-let investors have until the 23rd June to register for an official deposit scheme or face a fine of £3,600. Thousands of landlords could face a penalty if they fail to register their tenants deposits. This warning comes as the government runs a 90 day amnesty for buy-to-let investors who have not put theirs tenants deposits into an official scheme.

If a landlord fails to register by the 23rd June, the fine will be unlimited. The fine is calculated by tripling the initial deposit. The average initial tenant deposit is £1,200. Despite legislation enforced in 2007, it is estimated that around 1 in 3 of the 1.5 million private landlords in England and Wales, are not registered with a deposit protection service.

It is important to note however that not all landlords fall under this scope of legislation. For instance, arrangements which are different to a tenancy, including lodgers and university lets are excluded. All landlords which have an 'assured short hold tenancy' agreement must register with a government backed scheme.

As well as potentially receiving a penalty fare due to a failure to register, landlords will also face being powerless if the tenant wishes to leave at the end of their contract. This is also the case if the tenant wished to raise a dispute with the landlord.

Introduced in April 2007, deposit protection was set up as a compulsory scheme eight years ago to mediate disputes at the end of the tenancy.

Richard Lambert of the National Landlords Association has suggested that "there are now a large number of deposits that need protecting despite not previously needing to be, and it’s likely that many landlords won’t even be aware of what they need to do". In addition to this, he has also highlighted that "landlords who still hold a deposit should protect it if they haven't already done so, which will ensure that you can legally regain possession of a property [if you need to]." 

Do I need to register with a deposit scheme?

Buy-to-let properties which have an 'assured short hold tenancy' contract in place should have the tenants deposit protected within a government approved scheme. There are however certain exceptions such as a university hall of residence or a lodger renting a room in the landlord's home.

Landlords have 30 days from receiving the deposit to register it with one of the following:
  • Deposit Protection Service
  • MyDeposits
  • Tenancy Deposit Scheme
In the case of a dispute between landlord and tenant, the deposit will be protected in the scheme until the issue is sorted out.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Employment law changes for 2015

Commencing April this year significant changes will be made to employment law in the UK. Specific changes will apply to family leave. As an employer and an employee, here are the main main changes you will need to be aware of.

Shared parental leave

If you are expecting a child on or after the 5th April 2015, a shared parental leave and pay will be available. SPL enables the mother to take the first two weeks off after the birth. The rest of the mothers leave and pay can then be shared between the parents, either in turns or at the same time. This equates to 50 weeks leave and 37 paid leave available to be shared.

Additional paternity leave

Additional paternity leave has been replaced by SPL where the child is expected on or after the 5th April 2015.

Adoption leave

Adoption pay has increased to match maternity pay. The main adopter will now receive 90% of pay for 6 weeks and then the basic rate for 33 weeks. Adoptive parents are no longer required to have 26 weeks service in order to benefit from adoption leave and pay.

A single adopter will also be able to attend up to 5 adoption appointments as payable. However with joint adopters, one parent will be able to attend up to 5 appointments with pay, whilst the other parent can attend 2 appointments unpaid. Each appointment can last up to 6.5 hours. Adoptive parents are also entitled to SPL.

Surrogate parents

Prior to this change, surrogate parents had no rights to any statutory leave or pay. However, from 5th April 2015, the main new parent in the surrogacy arrangement will be able to take adoption pay and leave. Both parents will also be able to take SPL. The birth mother retains the right to maternity leave and pay.

Extended parental leave

Parents with 1 year's employment are entitled to up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave, if the child is under the age of 18. This right also applies to adoptive parents.

Tribunal awards

Tribunal compensation limits have risen in line with inflation. The maximum compensatory award for an unfair dismissal is £78,335 or 52 weeks pay if less. Awards for a weeks pay for unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy payments will increase to £475. The maximum basic award or statutory redundancy payment will increase to £14,250.

Statutory payment rates

As from the 5th April, statutory adoption, paternity, additional paternity and shared parental pay will be £139.58 per week.  From 6 April, statutory sick pay will be £88.45 per week.

If you would like any further information or advice regarding changes to employment law simply visit us online or call us on 0208 437 0731 to speak with one of our employment law experts.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act

Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act is the first ever SBEE Act to become an official law after receiving Royal Assent. This Act will enable businesses to get improved access to finance and put an end to zero hours exclusivity clauses.

Business secretary Vince Cable has suggested that "The Small Business Act will create the right environment for small businesses to continue to thrive by giving them greater access to finance to help them innovate and grow, and make it easier for them to export goods and services made in Britain." Cable has also argued that the Act means that firms that do not play by the rules will not be able to hide. This will mean that companies will not be able to abuse zero hour contracts or not pay minimum wage.

The Act focuses on the following key areas:

  • Access to finance
  • Regulatory reform
  • Public sector procurement
  • Childcare and schooling
  • Company transparency
  • Company filing requirements
  • Directors’ disqualification
  • Insolvency
  • Employment
  • Pubs Code Adjudicator and Pubs Code
  • Education evaluation
The Act now means that when businesses try to access finance, banks are required to pass on details on any small or medium sized business they decline for a loan to online platforms. This will then mean that they can be matched with other alternative finance providers.

In addition to this, Business Minister Matthew Hancock has added that "the bill had taken radical action on prompt payment to end the late payment culture where the largest companies will now have to report on payment practices twice a year." As a result, this Act will enable businesses to start up more easily and grow more rapidly than before.

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 was passed on 27 March.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

What you need to consider when making a Will

When it comes to making or in some cases changing your Will, there are many things you need to consider. Discussing your Will with a qualified solicitor will also help you to ensure that your estate goes to exactly to who you want it to after your death. Prior to seeing your solicitor you should perhaps consider the following:

Who are the executors and trustees of your Will?

Always think carefully about who you would like to be your executor and trustees to your Will.

An executor is responsible for dealing with your affairs and implementing the terms of your Will. Your executor is also usually appointed to be trustee of your assets whilst your affairs are still being sorted. Full names and addresses should be given to your solicitor.

Do you have any children?

If you have any children under the age of 16, you should consider carefully as to who is going to look after them should you pass away. Guardians can also be appointed in your Will. Full names and addresses should be given to your solicitor.

Do you want to give any specific gifts or items?

Always consider whether you would like to gift money or a specific item to a particular person named in your Will. Make a list of the items and the amount of money you would like to gift as well as the names of the beneficiaries. Please note that all these details should be given to the solicitor.

Whats going to happen to your residuary estate?

The residuary estate is the remainder of your assets/property once any liabilities have been paid off as well as when any gifts or money have been given. Always give careful consideration as to who you would like to receive this. If you are intending to give to a minor child, any funds will need to be held in a trust by your chosen executor until they reach a particular age. This is usually between 18 and 25.

How much inheritance tax needs to be paid?

It is important to note that the current inheritance tax threshold is £325,000, although there are exemptions and reliefs available which can help reduce the amount of tax payable. Make a list of your assets and their value. This list should be given to your solicitor so that they can advise you on the best way to reduce inheritance tax.

Register you Will

Once your Will has been signed and dated, you should ask your solicitor about registering your Will. Once your Will is registered, it will protect you should it get accidentally lost or destroyed.

Where can I store my Will safely?

It is very important to store your Will in a safe place. Your executors should also be aware as to where your Will is being stored.

If you are thinking of storing your Will, we would suggest an online option as it will protect you should your home flood or should you become a victim of theft. My Online Vault is a fully secure, protected and interactive document management system where you store your documents online within your own online vault. Find out more here.

Do I need to review my Will?

Yes it is recommended that you review your Will at least every 3 years, although this should be done more frequently should your family or financial circumstances change. Depending on your situation a Will can either be changed via a codicil or it may need to be renewed altogether. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on this and what is best for your situation.

Do you want to leave money to charity?

Through your Will you can leave gifts to your chosen charity. Anything left to charity is exempt from inheritance tax. Whatever your charity, make sure it is clear in your Will and your solicitor is made aware.

If your thinking of making a Will, MTA Solicitors can help you! To find out how our dedicated team of Wills and probate solicitors can help you with your Will or protecting your estate simply click here. Alternatively, you can call us on 0208 437 0731.