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You may change your mind dear customer..

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Not many people are aware of a customer’s legal “cooling off” rights. This has nothing to do with plunging them into a pool of icy water or having to take a walk around the block after losing their temper! It is more about the cold feeling that comes over an internet shopper when the eagerly awaited item arrives and it is nothing like the picture or what they were expecting. A bit like the time when I ordered what I thought was a lovely looking skirt from the Scottish Highlands. Upon its arrival, I happily put it on for a quick ‘cat walk’ before a panel of teenage offspring. One look at their faces along with stifled giggles and mutterings of “blanket with legs” reminded me that I too had cooling off rights! SO what are these rights?

Cooling off rights

Another way to cool off!

In an attempt to encourage consumers to make purchases over the internet, the law makers decided it would be a good idea to give them the right to change their mind. This gave rise to the Distance Selling Regulations which kick in automatically no matter what your terms and conditions say. Here is a snapshot of the cancellation rights in particular:

 

  • consumer customers have 7 working days starting from the day after the goods arrive to change their mind and return the goods to the supplier;
  • in the case of contracts for services, consumers have seven days from the day after the contract was concluded to cancel the contract. It is always an option to say to the customer that they can start receiving the services right away, but they must waive their cancellation rights
  • the customer must tell the business in writing during that time that they wish to do so;
  • the business must refund the cost of the goods and the initial postage to the customer within 30 days AND if the business has not expressly said so in its terms, the business has to pay for the return postage too
  • businesses must tell customers of this cancellation right before the contract is concluded- it is no good keeping quiet and hoping that the 7 days will pass unnoticed
  • there are exceptions to these rules, notably for perishable goods, customised orders made specifically for a customer, audio and downloadable products and CD’s once opened , newspapers and magazines

The Regulations require businesses to take many other steps and these will be covered in another article. Remember too that these Regulations started as a European directive and so will have been implemented across Europe. This means that if you allow consumer customers from abroad to buy your products, they too have automatic rights to cancel, with possibly more time to do so. So it is best to expressly limit sales to UK customers unless you are sure of the foreign law.

If you are worried your terms of sale do not comply with the Regulations, there are always the Terms of Online Sale available in our ‘oven ready’ document shop

Linking ad campaigns to Royal events (and bumps!)

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

As we celebrate the exciting news of the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy ( and commiserate her morning sickness which I can sooo sympathise with), some of you may be fast forwarding by nine months and wanting to tie in promotions with the Royal arrival. That is great, but you need to be aware of specific rules* that apply orelse the Advertising Standards Authority will be after you!

The bottom line is that advertising should not go as far as claiming or implying that a particular product is endorsed by the Royal Family or that a product is affiliated to royal events when it is not. This is in line with the general provisions on misleading advertising. You must obtain written permission before implying any personal approval of the advertised product and reminds marketers that those who don’t want to be associated with the product could have a legal claim  ( Rule 6.1).

Specifically, members of the Royal Family shouldn’t normally be shown or mentioned in a marketing communication without their prior permission (rule 6.2) and the Royal Arms or Emblems must not be used without prior permission from the Lord Chamberlain’s Office. References to a Royal Warrant should be checked with the Royal Warrant Holders’ Association (Rule 3.52).

Royal familyThe Lord Chamberlain’s office has issued guidelines regarding the sale of souvenir products. Advertisements for souvenir products are not, in and of themselves, likely to be considered to imply a Royal endorsement, although care should be taken in the copy to ensure that the ad doesn’t imply that a souvenir product is official memorabilia. In light of rule 6.2, the ASA advise against using images which have been provided for souvenirs or other specific uses in marketing communications for unrelated products.

As always, advertisers must ensure that advertising for such products is not misleading. In October 2012 the ASA upheld a complaint against an ad for a Prince William Royal Bridegroom Porcelain Doll because the image in the ad was found not to be an accurate representation of the product and therefore breached the Code. There is no minimum number of complaints required to spark an investigation, however it’s worth noting that the popularity of such products can result in a higher level of complaints if something goes wrong . This was the cae in August this year regarding a Royal Jubilee DVD offer .

It is worth noting that the Code states that an incidental reference unconnected with the advertised product, or references to material such as a book, article or film about a member of the Royal Family, may be acceptable.

Lastly, anyone considering marketing food supplements to pregnant women should be aware that significant changes are afoot in relation to health claims made on food products, please see this guidance for further information. The Comittee of Advertising Practice also has specific guidance on referring to Morning Sickness here.

*The Rules referred to are from the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing ( usually referred to as the “CAP Code”). This Code must be followed by all advertisers, agencies and media. The Code is enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority, who can take steps to remove or have amended any ads that breach these rules.

For more information, please follow this link to the Code. CAP also offer a free bespoke copy advice service if you are in doubt about your ads.

Festive glow from one of our clients

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Soy Candle Collection The Soy Candle Collection sells beautiful hand-made candles made from 100% eco soy wax, which is produced from pure soybean oil. The business was set up by two friends and we helped draw up the agreement between them covering all key areas such as how they would make decisions, how profits were to be split, what they could spend money on and how to deal with the situation if one of them wanted to leave or was unable to continue. One year on they are still going strong and we like to think it is because they are built on solid foundations.  Take a peek at their range here.

The founder commented:  ” We have been delighted with Off To See My Lawyer!  Jo offers a very professional service, delivered in an approachable and friendly manner, effectively communicates and translates complex legal requirements into a workable business format to help build and support our business. Jo’s help has been very valuable and we would highly recommend Off To See My Lawyer.  Thank you Jo!”

Is your jacket safe in a cloakroom?

Monday, November 12th, 2012

I recently went to an event which offered a cloakroom to leave one’s belongings. As I prepared to disrobe my heavy winter coat and count up the number of bags to be left ( as they were going to be charging for every single item!) my eye caught a big sign which stated in big bold letters: “NO LIABILITY IS ACCEPTED FOR LOSS OR DAMAGE TO YOUR PROPERTY!” Putting my lawyers hat on, I couldn’t help thinking that effectively we could all be leaving our precious belongings in the supposed care of the cloakroom attendant ,come back hours later to find them gone and there would be absolutely nothing we could do about it! They had indeed disclaimed all liability.

I asked people in the queue for the cloakroom whether they had seen the sign and whether they were still willing to leave their property? Every single person had and each just shrugged sheepishly and said they would –after all , what could go wrong? I can tell you what could go wrong: the attendant could get bored, pop off for a coffee, someone could walk into the cloakroom, make off with your laptop bag and coat and have a field day.Disclaimer of liability

What is it that makes people not truly read the legal small print even if it is in bold letters? Would they have behaved the same way if they were handing their child over to a nanny who wore a big sign on her lapel stating : I do not accept liability for loss or injury to your child”? I think not!

Disability (or should it be ‘Superhuman’ spirit?) in the Workplace

Friday, September 14th, 2012
Hannah Cockcroft

Superhuman spirit !

Whilst we were all still in awe of the achievements of Team GB in the Olympics, Channel 4 successfully maintained the jubilant spirit of London 2012 by enticing us further to “Meet the Superhumans”.  Sure enough, the Paralympic athletes bowled us over with their strength, bravery and tenacity.  No doubt the paralympians’ stories will have inspired small businesses up and down the country, who are currently contending with various adversities brought on by the recession, and who need a motivational boost.  In addition, our thoughts have lately turned towards the lives of people living with disabilities on a daily basis.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (“DDA”) protects the rights of people with “physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term effect on [their] ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.  It covers discrimination against disabled applicants for jobs and existing employees who are disabled (– except for where the employer is a small business.  For the purposes of the Act “small businesses” are those which employ less than fifteen people).  And it covers discrimination against disabled pupils or students at educational institutions.  It also seeks to protect the rights of disabled people in relation to goods, facilities and services; and creates an obligation for premises and public transport to facilitate the needs of disabled people.

If you run a business with fifteen or more employees, the DDA assumes your business will have enough resources to accommodate the needs of disabled employees.  You would not be alone, however, as there are various organisations and networks which aim to help companies fulfil their obligations with regards to disabled staff and customers.  The ILO Global Business and Disability Network, for example, aims to help companies “benefit from more diverse workforces, improved productivity, reduced turnover, safer workplaces and increased customer service and community brand loyalty”.

If you are disabled yourself and wish to start your own business, it is worth researching the various financial grants available. And if you have any further queries regarding disability and the law, please do not hesitate to contact us at Off To See My Lawyer.

Are you considering starting a business offering services to other businesses?

Friday, July 6th, 2012

It is no surprise that the rate of unemployment is increasing as companies are increasingly making their staff redundant in order to save on costs.  However, companies are still hiring consultants and freelancers – and this is one reason why so many skilled and enterprising people are opting for self-employment, providing services to a number of different companies instead of working in-house for just one.

Nigel Botterill (of Entrepreneur’s Circle) states, “There are now more opportunities for start-ups than ever before in history.  We know historically that the time when most millionaires are created is during a recession and just after.”  And James King (Founder of investment house Find Invest Grow) optimistically points out, “The government’s enterprise investment schemes are providing fantastic economic opportunities [and] creating fertile ground for new businesses to raise finance, especially when compared to investments in more traditional asset classes.”

However, we recommend the following:

  • Before providing your services to another business, make sure you complete any necessary credit checks and due diligence
  • If you are operating as a sole trader, you will be personally liable for debts, and for any claims made against you.  Off To See My Lawyer can help you draft your contracts in order to keep your potential liability to a minimum.
  • Your website will need to state any authorities which regulate your industry
  • Ensure you have appropriate insurance for your business

What are your rights as a debtor to a loan organisation?

Friday, July 6th, 2012

In these current difficult economic times, many small business owners are not only seeking loans from their banks, but turning to independent loan organisations.  On such organisation, Wonga has recently been criticised by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for sending customers letters which falsely accused them of committing fraud.  The customers in question had either fallen behind on repayments and entered a debt management plan; or had contacted their bank requesting a previous payment to Wonga to be retracted.

Wonga was also alleged to have customarily told customers working in the public or financial sectors that by being in debt they were breaching their terms of employment.

The OFT has told Wonga it may face a fine of up to £50,000 every time it adopts aggressive or misleading practices with its customers.

Wonga argues that the alleged incidents were few and isolated, and that procedures are now in place to ensure similar problems to do not occur in future.

If you have any queries relating to your legal rights as a customer of a loan organisation, please contact Jo Tall at jo@offtoseemylawyer.com.

“Advergames” are subject to regulation too

Monday, June 4th, 2012

As you must be aware, businesses have started to advertise their products via computer games on their websites, and also on social media websites and as downloadable content or apps on mobile devices.  If you too are thinking of developing an “advergame” in order to advertise your goods or services, please note that as with any other on-line advertisement, you must abide by the CAP Code (the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing).

In 2008 for example, The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) investigated a football game available on the free games website Mousebreaker.  The game in question featured Carling lager branding, and was linked to the Carling lager website.  Carling’s parent company, Coors, had paid for the link.  The game, it turned out, was effectively an advert for an alcohol brand, and because over 25% of Mousebreaker’s audience is under the age of 18, it was held to breach Rule 18.15 of the CAP Code.

If you have any concerns or queries regarding the legality of your marketing strategies, please contact Jo Tall at jo@offtoseemylawyer.com.

Developing Your International Potential – Exporting Success Programme

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Are you looking to expand your business overseas?  If your business is based in Greater London; has been trading for over one year; and employs less than 250 people, you will be eligible to apply for a programme which has been developed by North London Business to help businesses develop their international sales opportunities.

The programme comprises up to 12 hours of one to one advice with an Export Advisor, guidance and practical support to:

–          Explore new export markets;

–          Maximise your sales techniques to promote your products abroad;

–          Develop your website or portals for online sales, with minimum cost;

–          Prepare an effective export marketing strategy;

–          Understand export documentation and incoterms; &

–          Find distributors or agents abroad.

The programme is partly financed by the European Union, and is free for you to enrol.  However you will be expected to invest your time and resources on the project, and the 12 hours of support must be delivered within 3 months of your initial referral date.

If you are interested, please contact North London Business for an Exporting Success Enquiry/Referral Form on 020 8885 9203 and speak to Roya Jahanbin; or E-mail roya.jahanbin@northlondonbusiness.com

Will Singapore become the “entrepreneurship capital” of South East Asia?

Monday, May 28th, 2012

There are various reasons why entrepreneurship has not traditionally thrived in Asia.  Relatively speaking, US culture regards failure in business as a positive part of the learning process, and therefore Americans are more inclined to take risks.  Asian culture, however, is less forgiving of failure.  In addition, Hugh Mason (Chief Executive of Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI)) explains that the traditional method in Asian schools is “all about getting the right answer”, and that “being smart sometimes weighs against entrepreneurship”.

Traditionally Singapore has been considered by many in the business world as a gateway to South East Asia, as it represents a relatively small market of five million people.  Investors often choose to temporarily place their money in Singapore before investing in larger markets in the region such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.  However Angel investors and venture capital funds are increasingly seeking investment opportunities in Singapore itself.

A growing number of educational institutions are running entrepreneurship programmes and providing mentoring opportunities; and the Singaporean government are actively removing regulatory barriers in a bid to encourage entrepreneurship.  Ron Mahabir (found of Asia Cleantech Capital) states that “While the government has done a great job of loans and grant programmes, culturally it’s very difficult to push entrepreneurship very quickly.”  Change, however, is undoubtedly underway in Singapore.  In fact, according to the WorldBank, Singapore ranks at Number One in the world “for ease of doing business, and Number Four “for starting a business”.

Singapore-based JFDI is working in partnership with SingTel [a subsidiary of a major telecommunications company] to run an accelerator programme for start-ups from around Asia.  This program allocates start-up teams from around the South East Asia with mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs and specialists for 100 days, after which the start-ups can pitch to investors.  Wong Meng Weng (who helped start JFDI) says, “I see Singapore as the technology and start-up capital of South East Asia, not unlike the US where you recruit from around the world and get them to come into Silicon Valley”.