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Archive for the ‘Consumer Law’ Category

App Considered as Way to Improve Justice Access

June 15, 2016 by Kelly No Comments »

AppA downloadable app is being considered as a possible way to improve public access to justice. A recent report from Hackney Community Law Centre proposes a number of possible solutions to make justice more accessible, including the possibility of an app.

The report, Finding Better Problems for Better Solutions, was revealed at Hackney Town Hall. The release of the report formed part of a “digital summit” held at that venue recently. The Law Centre’s suggestion of an app follows a number of other recent suggestions to improve access to justice through the use of digital solutions, including online advice platforms and even fully-online courts.

Mark Brown, development director at Social Spider CIC and co-author of the report, said that such an app could help solve problems with the accessibility of justice. In particular, Brown said that those who have legal problems are often reluctant to seek professional advice in person, and consider a legal professional “the last person” they would like to speak to about the issues they are facing.

According to the report, “push” information would be used to keep the app updated with the latest and most accurate legal advice. It would also have the advantage, the report says, of being available at any time when somebody wishes to seek advice.

Hackney Law Centre has some familiarity with digital legal solutions, as the area has had a fair amount of involvement with digital law initiatives that have taken place in the past. For example, Hackney participated in a digital pilot which provided a direct and easily-accessible route through which members of the public could contact and get advice from barristers. Furthermore, in partnership with Legal Geek, Hackney helped bring about the “Hackathon” – an initiative which sees developers and legal professionals working intensively to develop innovative technology solutions for the legal sector. The second such event is due to take place later in 2016, and will specifically focus on the matter of providing access to justice.

The report also suggested that a better process should be developed for the provision of advice by email. The report also states that the working processes involved in this need to be better coordinated in order to more effectively make use of the time given by volunteers.

The report said: “Currently, while there may be people willing to volunteer their time to assist in delivering advice services in the borough, their ability to contribute their time is limited by a mismatch between the times they are available and the times that advice services providers are available to enable them.”


Findings Published From Biggest Ever Legal Needs Survey

May 25, 2016 by Kelly No Comments »

SurveyFindings have been published from an Ipsos MORI survey conducted for the Law Society and the Legal Services Board. Gathering information about nearly 17,000 legal issues from over 8,000 individuals across England and Wales, it has been described as the largest legal needs survey ever carried out in the UK.

One of the key findings of the survey was the number of cases in which the people concerned sought formal, professional legal advice. This was done in less than a third of cases, with people seeking but failing to successfully access legal advice in a further 5%. The issues in which people were most likely to feel the need to seek legal support were divorce, wills and probate, and conveyancing. The areas in which people were least likely to seek support from a legal professional, on the other hand, were problems with neighbours and issues relating to mental health.

Almost half of all legal issues faced by the survey’s respondents, on the other hand, were handled either alone or with the help of family members or friends. In almost a tenth of cases, it was the “fear that doing otherwise would cost too much” that led people to eschew legal advice and go it alone. This stemmed from concerns about court fees as well as the costs of professional legal support.

Younger people – specifically those under 35 – were the least likely to seek legal assistance, according to the survey. 161 individuals in the 11-15 age bracket were also surveyed. 70% of these young people said they had experienced at least one legal issue that fell within the scope of the survey, of which more than two thirds said they would be comfortable to seek legal advice from a teacher. Only 27% would be comfortable accessing legal help from a solicitor, and 32% from the police.

The survey also showed the number of people who had checked whether the professional legal adviser they were dealing with was regulated or not. This was done by less than half of respondents who sought professional legal advice, with those in the over-55 age bracket being the most likely to check. More than 50% of those who did not check whether their primary legal adviser was regulated simply assumed this was the case. 8% reported that they did not know how to find out about regulation, and the same number claimed to not even know what regulation meant in the context of legal services.

Jonathan Smithers, president of the Law Society, expressed concerns about the survey’s findings. Smithers said: “The most trained and qualified providers are the most regulated while those who may have no formal legal training may be unregulated. This can be confusing and can result in people not making informed decisions about the legal services they buy.”


AA Leaving Legal Sector

January 20, 2016 by Kelly No Comments »

The AASince Alternative Business Structure (ABS) licenses allowed non-legal businesses to branch out into legal services, a number of major businesses have taken advantage of the opportunity to enter the legal sector. A number of large corporations and household names continue to move into the law, most recently major insurer LV=. However, one of the first major businesses to enter the legal market under an ABS license – motoring organisation the AA – has now announced that it is withdrawing from the sector.

AA Law was first launched in December 2013, just weeks after the business first obtained its license with an initial focus on offering personal injury services. The creation of a legal arm for the motoring services firm was brought about through a partnership with national law firm Lyons Davidson. The goal of the new business was initially to offer legal services that would be of interest to its existing customers and a complement to its motoring services, notably personal injury and other kinds of litigation that might arise from traffic accidents. It was indicated that other services, such as contract services and employment law, would also likely be introduced in the future as a “natural evolution” of AA Law’s services.

At first, the AA’s move into legal services seemed to be a successful one. An annual report, covering the year to 31st May 2014, showed pre-tax profits of around £613,000 and turnover of nearly £2 million. However, while AA Law benefited from a rush of business in its early days, the influx of new work for the ABS has since slowed significantly and this seems to have led its parent business to question the value of continuing operations in the legal sector. It has now been confirmed that AA Law ceased accepting new clients in November.

The company said that: “Following a strategic review the AA decided that the level of customers it was introducing did not justify the maintenance of a standalone business.” The spokesperson delivering this statement went on to clarify that Lyons Davidson was continuing to work on existing cases that had been started with AA Law before the effective closure. It was also said that the firm would “[continue] to work with the AA and on a number of other initiatives for the provision of legal services to the AA and its customers.”

Following the early success of AA Law, a separate legal arm – AA Home Conveyancing – was launched. Whether this part of the AA’s legal operations is also going to cease operating is not currently clear.


Parking Fine Could go to Supreme Court

April 25, 2015 by Kelly No Comments »

Recently, the matter of parking penalties in private car parks has been subject to no shortage of controversy amid claims that these are excessive and not legally justified. Now one parking ticket under dispute may be heading to the Supreme Court, in a case which could establish whether these kinds of fine are indeed enforceable under common law or not.

The parking ticket in question has a value of £85, and was handed to chip shop owner Barry Beavis by car park operator ParkingEye. Beavis received the fine when he parked in a private car park with a two hour limit and left his car in place for nearly three hours.

The controversies surrounding these parking tickets and the matter of whether they are justified, valid and enforceable have largely revolved around the value of said tickets. These penalties tend to be very much greater than the legitimate costs of parking in the car park, and therefore much greater than any commercial loss suffered by car park operators. Often, they exceed any actual losses incurred by the motorist overstaying by many orders of magnitude – leading some to criticise them as extremely heavy-handed and others to question whether they can be legally upheld as proportionate to the offence and its impact on the car park operator.

However, Court of Appeal Judges looking at the case of ParkingEye v Beavis decided this week that the penalty issued by the operator was neither “extravagant nor unconscionable.” The judges believed that ParkingEye had not only commercial justifications on its side in handing down the £85 fine to Beavis, but also social justifications. The latter includes the boost that free parking can bring to local economies – something the judges felt must be protected with effective deterrents to prevent motorists from overstaying in such car parks and therefore keeping others from being able to use them.

Beavis was unhappy with this decision. Harcus Sinclair, the London legal firm representing him, has applied for the case to be taken to the Supreme Court for a final and absolute decision.

The executive director of consumer group Which?, Richard Lloyd, responded to the most recent ruling by saying that this decision could potentially “water down the law” on the issue of penalty charges issued by private firms. For example, Lloyd expressed concern that this decision might encourage companies such as mobile phone operators to start introducing hefty penalties for ending a contract early.

Which? has actively intervened in the case of ParkingEye v Beavis and, according to Lloyd, “given the possible ramifications of this case for all consumers, we will be looking to intervene again in the Supreme Court hearing.”


ASA Bans Three E-Smoking Adverts

December 24, 2014 by Kelly No Comments »

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned three television adverts for electronic smoking products after receiving over 200 complaints. The ban on these adverts comes only a few weeks after the law was first changed to allow adverts where people use e-smoking products to be shown on television.

E-smoking or “vaping” is billed as a healthier alternative to traditional smoking. Instead of smoke, a vapour is produced which often contains a flavouring. Frequently, this is a tobacco flavouring in order to provide the closest experience possible to smoking. E-liquids, which are used to produce the vapour, are available without nicotine or with various concentrations. As a tool to give up smoking, this allows smokers to enjoy an experience that is very close to smoking a cigarette but lacks many or all of the harmful chemicals contained in tobacco smoke. By using progressively weaker nicotine concentrations, many smokers aim to wean themselves off the experience entirely.

However, e-cigarettes are not entirely uncontroversial. Though they seemingly lack the health risks associated with smoking, they still look and are used much like a traditional cigarette. This has led to concerns that such devices could glamorise or normalise smoking. This has, until recently, meant that the use of such products could not be advertised on TV, and has even led to some places such as Wales considering a ban on the public use of these products.

However, their apparent lack of real health risks and value as a tool to help smokers quit has led electronic smoking devices to get their fair share of praise as well, and since November manufacturers have been allowed to advertise their use on television. However, there are still some strict rules that must be followed. These adverts must not encourage non-smokers to take up electronic smoking, and they must not target young people. Neither must the adverts be seen to promote tobacco use.

The ASA decided that the three banned adverts fell afoul of these rules. One of them, an advert produced for Vape Nation, was claimed to be encouraging non-smokers to use electronic smoking products. The advert featured a man claiming to have taken up e-smoking after quitting cigarettes, rather than as a tool to quit, leading to concerns that the advert would encourage non- and former smokers to try e-smoking.

The other two adverts, both promoting the VIP e-cigarette brand, were held to be glamorising tobacco use. They showed a woman exhaling a cloud of vapour – something which is visually extremely similar to traditional smoking.


What to do if you might be owed PPI compensation

January 14, 2014 by admin No Comments »

Because of money-laundering salespersons and insurance companies, many people have become the victim of PPI mis-selling. If you bought a mis-sold PPI, there is a very strong chance that you won’t be getting anything from your payment protection insurance. Nonetheless, if you are a victim of PPI mis-selling, you have every right to get back the money that you’ve placed in your insurance.  You can claim your PPI refund through a claims company that can do all the work for you, or you can choose to try to get the compensation yourself.  Here is how you can file for a PPI claim:

Before Filing a PPI Claim

  • Check Your Validity – Before you start processing your documents for a PPI claim, make sure that you are qualified for a PPI claim in the first place. Contact and ask the company that sold you your loan. Most of these lenders will tell you straight up on the phone if you’ve had a PPI in your account.
  • Gather Your Documents – You won’t exactly need your documents right away when you want to start filing your PPI claim, but you will need them in the long run. You can contact your lender to give you a copy of your terms and conditions.
  • Look Over a PPI Mis-Selling Checklist – The next step would be to find out if you were a victim of PPI mis-selling. Look for a PPI mis-selling checklist on the Internet.
  • Contact the Insurance Company – If you believe that you are indeed one of the many people who bought void PPIs, contact your insurance company and ask for a refund. While it was a lot harder to negotiate with insurance companies before, many are now willing to negotiate even through phone calls.
  • Contact the Financial Ombudsman Service – It is possible that the insurance company will reject your demand for a refund. If this happens, contact the Financial Ombudsman Service and make an official complaint. The Ombudsman will also help you determine if you have a viable case or not.

Know Your Consumer Law – Some handy tips

August 30, 2012 by admin No Comments »

There are many misconceptions abounding when it comes to consumer rights: in what circumstances do you have a right to take an item back to the shop? Are you entitled to a refund? When is the manufacturer, rather than the vendor, responsible? These are all frequently asked questions, yet some of them have more than one answer.

The Right to Return an Item

You reserve the right to return items if they are faulty. Do not be fobbed off with nonsense about the manufacturer being responsible. You bought it from the vendor, so your contract is with them. For items that are not faulty – i.e. those you decide you don’t want after all – it is entirely up to the vendor whether they accept the return. Furthermore, it is up to them whether they refund you or issue a credit note. This applies to clothes that are the wrong size – it’s up to you to try them on first.

Do you need a receipt?

You need proof of purchase, which can be a receipt or a bank or card statement. Remember, however, that if the goods are not faulty and the store insists on a receipt, you need a receipt. Also, don’t be mis-informed that faulty goods bought in a sale cannot be returned; your rights are still the same. A quick tip – you can return underwear if it is faulty, there is no separate underwear law!

The Sale of Goods Act, 1979

Essential reading, and mainly for the following part: all good must be “Satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable length of time.” The last part is the important one: do not expect a refund if a cheap and cheerful item fails after five years; insist on one if an expensive implement fails after five minutes. Know your consumer law, and you will be surprised how much easier it is to get your money back.