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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Legal Advice Important In Mediation For Separating Couples

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced in November 2014 that separating couples would get their first mediation session funded for both parties, as long as one of them is eligible for legal aid. On the back of this move there is an argument that more needs to be done to encourage separating couples to pursue mediation.

Mediation is a non-adversarial process divorcing couples enter into voluntarily that is overseen by a trained mediator. It is not suitable in all divorce cases but has advantages over court proceedings such as being quicker and cheaper. Couples should note that it is not necessarily a substitute for legal advice itself but it is a way to communicate and manage the process of separation to a conclusion without the need for court proceedings. Most people that use mediation also receive independent legal advice from a family lawyer.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

'Gay Cake' Leaves Bitter Taste For Disputing Parties

The ‘Gay Cake’ row that erupted earlier in 2014 has rumbled on unresolved for some time. The Equality Commission in Northern Ireland, which oversees equality and discrimination law, looks set to litigate the case in order to clarify to what extent businesses can refuse service to customers on certain grounds.

The case is nuanced in that the business involved apparently does not refuse to serve customers on particular grounds but refused to produce goods (a cake) which promoted an event which contradicted the beliefs of its owners. It remains to be seen if the court considers this difference material for the purposes of equality legislation.

Monday, 29 December 2014

New Food Labelling Standards Now In Force

EU plans to create a universal labelling standard for food products came into force from December 2014 as the Food Information for Consumers Regulation (or EU FIC) became part of UK law.

The following 14 allergens must be emphasised to consumers on the product’s ingredients list or menu: celery, cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, lupin (in flour), milk, molluscs, mustard, nuts (grown on trees), peanuts, sesame seeds, soya, sulphur dioxide (in dry fruit, meat products, soft drinks, vegetables, wine and beer).

If a product contains any of these allergens without having informed the consumer then this could result in a fine of up to £5,000.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Forex Manipulation Fines Just The Start Of Liabilities For Banks

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently fined five banks in the UK because of system and control failures in their foreign exchange businesses. The FCA is the financial regulatory body in the UK, which supervises banks to identify risks and encourage healthy competition, providing fair treatment to clients. For the regulator these failures “undermine UK financial system and put its integrity at risk”.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

What Is An E-signature And Is It Legally Binding?

In everyday language an e-signature is just a digital form of a signature but in legal language the definition is somewhat wider. An electronic signature is defined legally as data in electronic form which are attached to or logically associated with other electronic data and which serve as a method of authentication. E-signatures come in many forms including manuscript signatures that have been scanned, Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) or merely a name typed at the end of an email message.

More sophisticated types of e-signatures are digital and biodynamic signatures. Digital signatures rely on a form of encryption to authenticate messages. In this type of encryption the signing party uses a key pair (private and public key). The signatory affixes the signature using their private key, while the recipient verifies the signature with the public key and decrypts the message.

Biodynamic signatures are versions of manuscripts signatures where a special pen and pad is used to measure and record the actions of the person as they sign. A digitised version of the manuscript signature is created and can then be attached to electronic documents.

Trades Need To Work Particularly Hard To Maintain Health And Safety Standards

As we move into 2015 businesses should remain focused on ensuring the safety and welfare of their workers. The Health and Safety Executive has had a busy 2014 so businesses should be well aware of the potential for fines and criminal penalties in the event of failures. Businesses operating in the traditional trades are most vulnerable to breach of health and safety laws so should pay particular attention and seek professional advice where necessary.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Attention Required For Companies Buying Business Interruption Insurance

While fire can take a matter of minutes to destroy a building, claiming for the losses can take years if care is not taken when purchasing insurance. A simple mistake on the insurance declaration form or unclear projections on future profits can make claiming for business interruption a complex and lengthy procedure.

What Laws Apply To The Drone Invasion?

Logistics businesses worldwide are engaged in intense competition but going the extra mile to win greater customer satisfaction can incur huge operational costs. This has resulted in experimentation in the innovative use of drones for commercial purposes with Amazon leading the charge.

In the UK, usage has mainly targeted London, Liverpool, Nottingham and Cambridge. The approach seeks to replicate similar developments elsewhere such as Australia (Google) and Germany (DHL). Significantly, commercial use of drones is effectively banned in the US as the regulatory agency fleshes out a legal regime for its take-off by September 2015.

Friday, 19 December 2014

New Changes To EU Food Industry Legislation Expected In 2015

The EU is proposing changes to Regulation 882/2004, which is the EU legislation that governs food and agriculture industries, to strengthen enforcement of health and safety standards for the food industry through Europe. The proposed changes are still being negotiated and a final text is not expected until 2015. The proposed changes will affect how food standards are monitored in the UK and impact most businesses within the food industry.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Land Registry Changes Now Implemented For Restrictions On Leasehold Titles

Leasehold landlords and management companies should note the recent changes to the Land Registry’s approach to restrictions on leasehold titles. Leaseholders looking to cancel restrictions placed on the title by dissolved landlords or former managements companies can also benefit from the simplifications brought in with these changes.

In Practice Guide 19A, that came into effect in October of 2014, the Land Registry made a number of changes in regards to its practice for restrictions on leasehold properties. The guide introduced changes that will have the notable implication of simplifying and streamlining the process at the Land Registry for placing restrictions on registered leasehold titles.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Audacious Data Protection Breach Highlights Risks For Businesses

One of the UK’s largest mobile phone networks was left embarrassed after an individual managed to gain access to its confidential information. The individual, a company director, was fined for illegally assessing one of Everything Everywhere's (EE) customer databases.

Matthew Devlin, a director of three marketing and telecoms companies, gained access to the details of when EE's customers were due a mobile phone upgrade by impersonating a member of the operators’ security team during calls and emails to legitimate mobile phone distributors. He succeeded in obtaining the log-in details and password to EE's database and targeted customers with services offered by his own telecoms companies. He was fined £500, plus £438.63 costs and an £50 victim surcharge.

The case was embarrassing for EE but it also demonstrates that even large organisations with significant resources are vulnerable to breaches of data security. SMEs need to be particularly cautious as to how they protect data regulated under the Data Protection Act as significant fines exist if failings become evident.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Changes To Insolvency Litigation Funding In April 2015

The 1st of April 2013 saw the coming into force of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 which introduced changes to the civil justice system, recommended by Lord Justice Jackson. The reforms to the funding of litigation included the abolition of the recoverability of conditional fee agreement (CFA) success fees and after the event (ATE) insurance premiums.

The application of these reforms was delayed in relation to insolvency proceedings but it is now clear that this exception is due to expire in April 2015. Currently, insolvency practitioners undertake litigation on behalf of creditors with the costs funded from CFAs or ATE insurance policies.

Monday, 15 December 2014

A New Twist In Trade Mark Case Of Interflora v M&S

The long-running trade mark dispute between Interflora and Marks and Spencer (M&S) has captivated brand owners and intellectual property lawyers since its early beginnings in 2008. The battle ensued after M&S’ used Interflora’s name as keywords to prompt Google adverts which did not actually contain the Interflora name or branding but took users to M&S’ own flower delivery service. The outcome has important implications for all brand owners and their competitors.

In May 2013 Arnold J, High Court judge, found in favour of Interflora by declaring that M&S was guilty of trade mark infringement for using Interfloras’s trade mark as a keyword. In the latest twist the Court of Appeal declared in November 2014 that, due to a number of errors of law apparent in the proceedings, the case must be allowed to go to appeal and remitted it for a retrial to the High Court.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Construction Businesses Must Do More To Improve Site Safety

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently announced that 40 per cent of working sites failed to properly protect workers. This was found as a result of a month long inspection initiative at almost 2,000 building sites. Nearly half of these were undergoing dangerous practices, yet the HSE claims that many of these issues could easily have been prevented.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Forex Fines May Encourage Litigation Against Banks

The massive forex fines recently levied against a number of major UK and US banks are projected to have new ramifications for banking regulation and for litigation related to the fallout. Big European banking names like HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS as well as American banks like JP Morgan Chase, Citibank and Bank of America, have been fined by the regulators, thereby adding a huge further blemish upon to public image of the banking sector.

The latest fine of £2.6 billion was collectively issued by UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) along with two regulators of USA namely, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Further financial damage may be incurred if third parties that suffered losses due to rigged trades seek to make civil litigation claims against the banks involved.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Southwell v Blackburn: A True Landmark Decision Or A Reminder Of Cohabiting Risks?

On 16th October 2014, the Court of Appeal upheld a decision that an unmarried man had to pay a lump sum to his ex-partner in respect of a property they both shared. While press reports labelled this a landmark decision for unmarried couples many practitioners take a different view, believing it reinforces the precarious position cohabitants are in.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Employment Law Provides No Lifebelt For Distressed Sailor

In November 2014, a tribunal judge dismissed an attempt by a former employment lawyer, Ruth Harvey to sue both the organisers of the Clipper Round the World Race for alleged harassment and discrimination. The case centred on the claimant’s involvement in the Clipper Round the World Race, of which Sir Robin Knox-Johnson is the founder. Although the case attracted mainstream media attention due to the fame of its founder, Sir Robin Knox-Johnson who was also named in the claim in that capacity (but not personally), legally it provides a useful reminder about the limits of employment law.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Additional Damages Can Succeed Where Accounting For Profit Fails

The 2007 hit pop single Heartbroken produced by T2 and featuring the British singer Jodie Aysha, has been the subject of recent damages proceedings. The claim followed a 2013 (Patents) County Court ruling that the performer’s rights relating to the vocal track at the centre of the dispute belonged to the claimant – Jodie Aysha – and not the record companies All Around the World Recordings and ANV Records. Ms Henderson (‘Jodie Aysha’ being a stage name) had composed the song lyrics when she was fourteen years old.

Friday, 5 December 2014

How to Avoid Calamitous Christmas Parties

Employers often reward employees with office parties at the end of the year. An office party during the festive season can provide an organisational morale boost and offer a way to thank employees for their hard work during the year. It can also create a degree of social cohesion among employees by providing a glimpse of colleagues’ lighter sides in a relaxed social atmosphere.

Unfortunately, the nature of an office Christmas party is such that there also a number of legal pitfalls – especially where alcohol is concerned – which many HR professionals agree are surprisingly difficult to manage.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

There Is No Need for Excessive Divorce Costs

Mr Justice Mostyn has described as “madness” a recent High Court divorce case where a couple spent almost one third of their assets on legal and expert fees. The battle over £2.9m in assets cost the couple just under £1m. From the pre-costs starting point of £2,885,000, the wife will receive 38.9% of the assets, the husband will receive 29.2% and lawyers and experts will be paid 31.9%.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Is Your Business Prepared for Winter Staff Absence?

Seasonal weather changes always seem to catch us slightly unprepared in the UK, even if we never get hit by quite the extremes that New York State has seen recently. As winter approaches, our roads become icy, trains get delayed and schools sometimes close. This causes major travel disruption and lost hours of work so it is good to know where we stand as employers and employees before it happens.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Certainty Regained over Section 20 Consultations

After a long wait, the judgment of Court of Appeal has partly overturned the controversial 2012 High Court decision in Phillips & Goddard v Francis.

The Court of Appeal has clarified the law in relation to section 20 service charge consultations required under Part 2 to Schedule 4 of the Service Charges (Consultation) (England) Regulations 2003 ("the Regulations").

Monday, 1 December 2014

Immigration checks on new tenants – another burden on Landlords or a way to beat illegal immigration?

From today private landlords in the West Midlands will be required to check that their prospective tenants are entitled to reside in the UK before renting a property to them under new rules which have come into force with the passing of the Immigration Act 2014.

The pilot scheme will run until Spring 2015 when the Government will consider whether it has been a success but the intention is that it will then roll out the new requirements throughout the country during the course of 2015.