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Beware of the Companies House scam

Monday, June 9th, 2014

I recently filed my Annual Return with Companies House. In case you were not aware or are new to owning a limited company, Annual Returns need to be filed once a year and effectively are a snapshot of the company’s ownership. As a director it is your legal duty to file this document and if you don’t you may be looking at a nasty fine and even a criminal record! Filing is done easily on-line and you simply pay a fee of £13 to do so. See Companies House guide here for more details. Phishing-Scam

That aside, having filed mine, I received what I thought was an acknowledgment from Companies House and inviting me to open an attachment with a copy of the Annual Return in it. I am getting wise in my old age and sadly now double check EVERYTHING. Luckily I did as it was a scam and had I opened the attachment it would have triggered an awful virus into my system with heaven knows what consequences.

Differences are often hard to spot as in this case it seemed to be just hyphens eg ” web-filing@companies-house.gov.uk” compared to: “webfiling@companieshouse.gov.uk”. I understand from Companies House that they never attach zip files so that is also a good indicator

Bottom line: be ever so careful with every email and if in doubt, absolutely do NOT open any attachments.

PS Don’t rely on the email addresses I have quoted above as the scammers may have changed it yet again. Companies House have a list of the current scams with pictures of what fake emails look like. See here for more details. What a world we live in…..

Beware of the trademark scam

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

I recently applied to register a trademark with the Intellectual Property Office. Within a few weeks I received an offical letter from the ‘International Patent and Trademark Service’. It depicted my trademark, the classes I had applied for and was asking for 970 Euros. To all intents and purposes it looked like an invoice as part of the registration process. However, I knew I had already paid my fees and so on looking at the very small print in the letter, it emerged that it had absolutely nothing to do with my trademark registration and was a scam!

IPTSThe letter was actually an invitation from a company in Bratislava to part with 970 Euros in return for a listing on their database with no government connection whatsoever.

So once again the lesson is: always read the small print and if it doesn’t feel right, you are probably right.
Be a savvy entrepreneur!

‘CASH’ is the key to getting paid

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Every contract should have a clause that deals with payment terms and the mechanics of getting paid. Remember ‘CASH’ and you will cover the basics every time:

Consequences of late payment: interest on late payment, down tools, cancel the contract?

Amount to be paid: does it include VAT, delivery and expenses?

Settlement: is payment to be on completion, in instalments, in arrears..?

How will you be paid- in cash, bank transfer or cheque?

And if you do well, you can put all your hard earned cash in the  Fidelity Fiduciary Bank !

Fidelity Fiduciary Bank film clip

From Mary Poppins
Creator: Walt Disney Corporation

How to save on legal fees!

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

solicitors feesMany people are worried that the moment they consult a lawyer, the “legal clock” will start ticking and before they know it, they will have racked up a massive bill. That is simply not true. Here are a few tips to keep your legal bill to a minimum and keep your lawyer happy. You may think I have invented some of these examples, but sadly they are true!

 

  1. Agree the fee or hourly rate up front. Do not assume advice will be free or at a rate you had several years ago.
  2. If you are concerned about fees, ask for an update. All lawyers run time sheets and should be able to tell you right away how much is on the clock.
  3. Give clear instructions. Make your lawyer’s job easy-don’t just forward e-mails with the words: ”See below”. The lawyer needs to be told what they are meant to be looking at  and what you want them to do with the “e-mail below”. If they have to read down a great long chain of e-mails and then write back to double check with you, that will all cost money.
  4. Don’t leave great gaps of weeks and months between e-mails. Otherwise your lawyer will have to read back into the file to remember where they left off and that too costs money.
  5. Send as much detail as possible at the outset. Avoid questions such as :”I am planning to open a business. Please can you advise of legal implications.” It is like saying:” I would like a cake. Please can you bake one.” You need to say what type of cake, for how many people, whether there are any allergies, how much you want to pay, when it has to be ready for…. You get the picture!
  6. Remember Microsoft Word tools. If your lawyer has asked for comments on a document they have sent you, use proper tools to highlight your comments such as the “track changes” or “insert comment” facility in Microsoft Word (see the ‘Review’ tab). If your lawyer has to try and spot where you have made changes that you have typed in directly into the document, that makes the job much harder and costly.

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

How to spot bully tactics of big companies!

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

I was thrilled to be instructed by a large multi-national recently. However, on reading through the terms they were proposing, my heart sank and it struck me how bullying does not just happen in the playground. Small companies are subject to  it too via unduly harsh terms imposed on them in the legal contract. It is vital therefore tStop the bullyo scrutinise them carefully!

Some of the most important clauses to check when presented with a contract engaging your services are:

  • the AMOUNT you will be paid; and
  • WHEN you will be paid

This may seem obvious, but people often gloss over the detail in the heat of excitement at landing a job. e.g. they may agree a daily rate, but not actually state how many hours a “day” consists of and whether a break for lunch is included. When I put in this detail, the multi-national then announced that they would not pay for overtime. Agreeing to this would mean that I could potentially end up doing 12 hour days for no extra pay!! And this was on top of aleady offering them a very discounted rate.

To add insult to injury, they then informed me that payment terms were 45 days from receipt of invoice. Given that invoices had to be submitted monthly in arrears, this amounted to having to wait almost 11 weeks before being paid! This seemed particularly absurd as we were only talking about a three month contract anyway. So it is vital to literally get out a calendar and check the practical implications of the terms offered. If you are subcontracting the work, you need to make sure that you have mirrored the terms with your subcontractors. Otherwise you could end up having to pay them, before you yourself have received the money and end up with all sorts of cash flow problems.

Another trick is for companies to say that payment terms start from the date of the “receipt of invoice”. Again this adds another couple of days’ credit in their favour which may not be obvious to you. It enables them to argue that it took days for the invoice even to arrive or reach the right department… The better option from a supplier point of view is to state that the payment term starts from the “date of the invoice”.

I believe that if all of us small business owners object to such lengthy payment terms, large corporates will think twice about seeking to impose them on us and improve the small business economy tremendously. As a leading entrepreneur once advised me: “Take the brave pill!”

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

Is your promotional material legal?

Monday, May 21st, 2012

As many of Off To See My Lawyer clients are running businesses related to the health industry, we thought you may be interested to hear the outcome of a particular recent Advertising Standards Agency enquiry.  Six complaints were made about the claims of Miruji Health & Wellbeing’s product “Sit & Slim”.  Miruji Health & Wellbeing had made claims in an advertisement in the local press, and on their website, that their “slimming and therapeutic massage chair and programme” had been clinically proven by the NHS to induce weight loss, relieve stress, and lower blood pressure.  It even went on to say that the chair could provide a solution to obesity.

The ASA established that there had in fact been no formal NHS clinical research.  A casual study had taken place at a mental health hospital among staff participating in a free trial.  The hospital in question did not treat obesity.  Therefore this aspect of the advertising claims being made by Miruji Health & Wellbeing was a misleading endorsement, and as such held to breach two of the CAP Codes.

With regards the claims that the chair could treat high blood pressure, the ASA considered that high blood pressure is “a medical condition for which advice, guidance and treatment should only be conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional”.  The advertisements therefore also breached one of the CAP Codes (- in this case, the “Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products” rule).

On the subject of obesity treatment, and the claims that customers could lose weight using the chair and programme alone – the advertisements were held to have breached the CAP Code relating to “weight control and slimming”.

If you have any concerns about the legality of your own advertisements or the claims you make in your promotional material, please contact Jo Tall via jo@offtoseemylawyer.com and she will provide you with appropriate advice relating to the CAP Codes, and any other legal issues that require consideration.

Event: Be Creative Workshop

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Joe Sinclair (Creative Director of Burson-Marsteller) will lead a workshop on Tuesday 22 May 2012 from 17:30 to 19:00 on the subject of creativity in business.  The session will explain:

  • Why creative campaigns are so engaging
  • How to harness creativity effectively and apply it to your business needs
  • Best practice examples of creative campaigns achieving results

Address: Central St Giles, 1 St Giles High St, London WC2H 8AG

To book, please visit: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/2873882861

Female Entrepreneur Focus: Gennese Williams

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

The test for a true entrepreneur is to see whether the person in question has turned an adverse situation into a successful enterprise.

When Gennese Williams lost the sight of both her eyes in 2007, she decided she could no longer work for anyone again.  Far from burning her bridges, however, she built upon her existing experience in beauty, music and management to start her own business, MGW London.  She merrily believes in the mantras, “What you think you are worthy of, is what you will attract”; and “You change your reality when you change your mentality”.  In addition, when times are especially difficult, she recommends taking a break and “switching off from everyone” in order to recharge one’s motivation and creativity.

MGW London is an ambitious management and business consultancy agency.  In addition it has its own in-house production, make up, hair stylists and fashion stylists’ team, and a graphic design team (run by her brother); and together they provide a range of services to manage events, projects and brands.

Ms Williams says that the most effective way of attracting clients is by word of mouth and personal recommendations.  In addition she favours social media as it gives prospective clients “the freedom to check me out before they approach us”.

Her advice to other business owners is to remain dedicated to clients; to “be professional at all times, master your craft and listen to your clients’ needs”; and to “always be steps ahead to achieve the best and don’t sleep until you know the job is complete for that day”.