About this blog

Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Monday 31 December 2018

For BBC Radio 5 Live Listeners - Especially

Hello, Nice to speak you on the radio today. As promised - actually, a bit sooner than promised - here's confirmation of some of the areas we covered and some more.

You'll find some of my Christmas shopping tips here. http://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/consumer%20rights

They are as good for the New Year, any day of the year and any minute of that day.

When it comes to sale goods, they like non-sale goods, must be of satisfactory quality and reasonably fit for their purpose. Regard will be had to the price you paid but the thing must still work! If you buy a hot water bottle which is marked down by 95% and it has holes in it, the seller can't say: 'But what did you expect for that price?!'

If the seller has gone out of business or is being unhelpful about your complaint then you may be able to look to the credit card company for a refund and compensation provided the cash price was more than £100 and you used that credit card to finance any part of the repurchase. You could be scuppered if there was an intermediary like PayPal which processed the payment. But if you used a debit card to pay, whatever the price, then the issuing bank will often make a refund if the goods weren't up to legal standard though they won't pay consequential losses which you could collect where the credit card situation applies (like having to pay more for a comparable item elsewhere, out of pocket expenses and compensation for not being able to use the defective item as intended). 

For a non-delivery where you have stipulated a date on or by which you must have the goods, you are entitled to cancel and have a refund and compensation for losses once the date has passed without a delivery. Where no date has been agreed, you should get the goods within 30 days. If at the end of 30 days there is no sign of them then you can give notice to the seller that if they are not delivered within a reasonable time, which you should stipulate - usually safe to plump for around 28 days - then you will cancel and that you would be entitled to do and have a refund with compensation for any losses.

For goods ordered on line, the cancellation period will  generally not start to run until those goods have been delivered so you can cancel earlier.

You can find much, much more in my book Breaking Law. And , if the pages fall out, you would have a good claim!

Something else. I mentioned compensation for cold calling. Here's something on the laws which came into force in September 2017.

Similar laws are being brought into force on 09 January 2019 in relation to cold calls (by callers not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority) to individuals in relation to their pension schemes where they have not consented to receive the calls and they are not already a client of the calling firm. Tell the caller to read the Privacy and Electronic Communications (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2018 SI/2018/1396, put that into their pipe and pay you some dosh.

Happy New Year.

The early kill: Chapter 15 - Daft Cases and Daft Responses

Is the other side clearly hell bent on litigating a hopeless case? Then you can get their case struck out (to use the jargon) so that you don't have to get involved in lengthy court proceedings without good reason.

In this chapter I tell you when and how you can do this - but whatever you do don't call it the early kill!

Sunday 30 December 2018

Sock it to 'em in writing: Chapter 14 - Witnesses and their Statements

There is 'no property in a witness' What on earth does that mean? Well I'll tell you and explain the importance and intricacies of witness statements in your case in Chapter 14 set out below.

Saturday 29 December 2018

Cap the costs of going to court: Chapter 13 - Court Fees

"On the Ninth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine ways to save on court fees".

Now I know it's not the ninth day yet but give me some poetic licence, especially as these tips are dynamite. The costs of actually issuing court proceedings can be excessive but I'll show you some clever tactics to employ that will help keep them to a minimum. But please note that no refunds are generally now obtainable on hearing fees in cases which settle and that the time for payment of a hearing fee has changed.

Friday 28 December 2018

Take it and don't leave it? Chapter 12 - In Full And Final Settlement

Some cheap skate sends you a cheque for an amount less than you were expecting and adds the dread words 'in full and final settlement'. What should you do with it? Can you still go for it all? My polite suggestions can be read below:

Thursday 27 December 2018

The Sooner the Better: Chapter 11 - Getting Your Opponent's Documents

In which I explain what is meant by disclosure, hand you a letter to use to get hold of the documents and stress that the sooner you start the better.

Wednesday 26 December 2018

On Your Marks! Chapter 10 - Time limits for starting court proceedings

The clock is ticking but when did it start and can it be reset? Limitations and time limits for starting civil court proceedings explained and what you can do to make sure you're in time.

Tuesday 25 December 2018

This used to be a court. Do you want mushy peas with your fish & chips? Chapter 9 - Where to Start

High Court? County Court? Online? Divorce? Where you should start your claim and why, are all explained in Chapter 9.

Apologies for posting such pessimistic fare on Christmas Day but you know what to do if today's pressies fail to meet your expectations.

Monday 24 December 2018

Pre-match muscle flexing: Chapter 8 - Before Going Starting a Case

Some top tips to help you make the most of negotiations and to head off the prospect of your claim ending up in court.

And find out what a Part 36 offer is - all is explained in Chapter 8 below.

Sunday 23 December 2018

Don't bother suing me! Chapter 7: Preserving my Premium Bonds

A short word of advice of why you should avoid court if you possibly can and a few suggestions on how to do it are set out in Chapter 7.

And a disclaimer on why there's little point suing me for anything you read here.

Saturday 22 December 2018

This is getting serious: Chapter 6 - Lawyer or Litigant in Person?

In this chapter I move on from the tales of legal life and give you a few pointers on why you may – or may not – wish to take a legal claim on yourself. What's the difference between barristers and solicitors, how much do they cost and how on earth do you find the right one are all tackle here.

Friday 21 December 2018

On becoming a judge: Let right be done – Chapter 5 of Breaking Law

In 1988 it was thought I would be useful as a part-time judge. From there I progressed to a full-time position and the official PR representative for district judges. Join me in this chapter of Breaking Law as I look at justice from the other side of the fence.

Thursday 20 December 2018

Ask Auntie: Legal Print – Chapter 4 of Breaking Law

My first steps at legal writing, my emergence as a legal agony aunt for a national legal journal and tales of exposing a well-known MP.

Read it all about it below

Wednesday 19 December 2018

The Kray twins attempt to do some damages: Chapter 3 of Breaking Law

In which I am introduced to Ron and Reg Kray and pursue an ill fated, (some would say insurmountably difficult) claim for libel damages on their behalf against the BBC.
Read it below. And what appears to have happened to Ron’s brain.

Xmas Shopping Law Kit

A year ago, I posted my Christmas shopping advice. I've repeated it below 'cos it remains just as important. If you buy on-line then you have the usual cancellation rights. 
Extend the 30 Days If the goods you purchase as a consumer are below legal standard, you are at your legal strongest by rejecting them within 30 days of delivery (less if they are perishable). It's known by the law and lawyers (whether or not they are wearing their wigs) as 'short-term' rejection. But the trader who is selling them can agree to extend the 30 days. Make an extension a condition of purchase. 'I'll buy this parrot but only if you agree to extend my right of short-term rejection under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to two months (you can ask for longer, if you want) and write on the till receipt that this has been agreed. And I don't care if I am holding up the queue.' 

Use Credit Card By paying with your credit card on a purchase which has a cash price of more than £100 and up to £30,000 you may get extra protection under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. This makes the credit card company equally responsible with the seller for any breach of contract or misrepresentation. Useful if the seller goes out of business or is especially difficult. You still get the protection if you paid with a mixture of cash and credit card so long as the cash price exceeded £100. And that's £100 on the particular goods you are moaning about rather than the total of your entire shopping from that trader. But beware. Credit card companies are starting to refuse to accept liability where there has been in intermediary which has processed the transaction. Whether or not they are legal justified will depend on the arrangement with the intermediary but transactions through Amazon Marketplace or Pay Pal will probably mean that section 75 does not apply.

Avoid Duff Present Embarrassment It's embarrassing for the relative or friend (or former friend!) to whom you have gifted the purchase to come back to you and tell you that the present has fallen to pieces and was rubbish. The seller may inform them that can take  running jump because they weren't the buyer and so they cannot complain of a breach of contract. Put them in the position of being able to complain directly to the seller without having to breathe a word to you. Get the seller to write on the till receipt (if it's long enough, otherwise continue on the back): 'This purchase is for X and we agree that she shall be entitled to enforce all terms for their sale as the third party.' If the seller won't agree before you say you are buying, tell them you will have a go at the shop next door and don't worry if you held up the queue. Alternatively. transfer in writing your rights under the contract to the person to whom you gifted the purchase and tell the seller in writing that you have done so.  Of course, as purchaser, you could always take the damned thing back yourself!

Be strong on No-Receipt If the seller has agreed to a refund or credit note within a specified period but makes production of the receipt an essential condition of going along with this then you've had  it should you have lost the receipt - unless you get the seller on a very good day or are dating the manageress. But this does not apply where the goods are below legal standard although it is only reasonable that you should be able to satisfy the seller that you bought the goods from them and not one of their rivals. If no receipt you may have some other proof like a credit card statement. Nothing whatsoever available? Then the conversation may go like this.
'Do you accept I am a truthful person?'
'Well, I as a truthful am  personal telling you that I purchased this item (a) from you; (b) when I say I did; and (c) for the price marked on it.'
'Sorry, sir, but our policy is that we must see the receipt.'
'Which means I have to sue you and claim the price, interest, court fees and my car park expenses for today and you will have no defence. There is no reason why the judge should not accept my word. What a complete waste of time.'
'I'll just get the manager.'

Don't be sneezed at  I am sick and tired of catching the germs of other shoppers as they sneeze in my face. So should you be. but for sneezing in your face, not mine. You may be entitled to compensation. Really. See http://www.breakinglaw.co.uk/search/label/sneezing%20claims

Much more in Breaking Law - that ideal Christmas present. And the pages shouldn't fall out.

Compliments of the Season and a Happy New Year

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Let Loose. My part in the harsh reality of the Summer of Love (that's 1969 for the younger readers)

Chapter 2 of the book, Let Loose, is now free to read below.

Tales of e-type Jags, the legal niceties of barking and howling and my bit part in the legendary Isle of White pop festival all await.

Sunday 16 December 2018

Brilliant Christmas Gift Idea

Buy your favourite relative or friend a copy of Breaking Law. Well, I think it's a brilliant idea! They will hopefully be able to solve their legal problems without a lawyer and have a laugh as they are doing so. The reviews have been embarrassingly good and I didn't even write them. And my blog which is accessible free of charge will keep them up to date with any legal changes. 

Extracting Child Support Payments and Arrears: 'We have ways!'

So they won't pay the child support, eh? The prospect of some time inside doesn't trouble them. They keep their goods well hidden so the bailiff will end up tearing his (or her) hair out. They haven't got an employer so there's no opportunity to have their pay docked. They aren't so stupid as to keep their money in current or savings accounts so no chance of swooping in on that. And they don't own any land or buildings so nothing there to charge. 

But they do have a delicious looking UK passport which comes in handy for drug smuggling and holidays with their new partners. From last Friday 14 December 2018*  a magistrates’ court in England and Wales will be empowered, because of the arrears, to disqualify them from holding a UK passport (or obtaining an ID card recording that they are a British citizen) for up to two years. The court will have to consider whether a passport is needed to earn a living, along with the defaulter’s means. The order could be suspended if the defaulter agrees to pay and there are special circumstances!!!

Irritatingly for evading defaulters, as from last Thursday 13 December 2018, a loophole is closed with power to the Child Maintenance Service to use regular and lump sum deduction orders in relation to joint bank accounts and unlimited partnership bank accounts and lump sum deduction orders in relation to sole trader accounts. 

The 1993 and 2003 child support schemes provide for a notional income to be attributed to non-resident parents in respect of certain assets held by them. These provisions were not carried forward to the current 2012 scheme but will now apply Income from the asset will be deemed at 8% of value and an asset worth no more than £31,250 will be disregarded. Assets subject to a trust of which the non-resident parent is a beneficiary will rank but among the disregards will be assets used in the course of the parent’s business, the primary residence of the parent or their child and assets which would need to be sold to meet the maintenance where a sale would cause hardship to a child of the non-resident parent or would be unreasonable in the circumstances.

The Child Maintenance Service's power to write off arrears under the 1993 and 2003 schemes - £2.5bn is owed to parents – is widened, following representations against in some instances and without the need to seek representations where arrears are under £500 (or under £1,000 where the case started on or before 1 November 2008). 

So if the parent of your child has defaulted under their child support obligations and the Child Maintenance Service has so far got nowhere with enforcement action, press the Service to use its new powers. And press again.

* See Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act 2008 (Commencement No 16) Order 2018 SI/2018/1261if you don't believe me.

A bite size treat for Breaking Law readers. We're serialising extracts from the book, free over Christmas and New Year.

 For this charity, you can thank my publishers – pity they weren’t so generous when fixing my royalties – and me for putting a firearm to their temples. So tuck into some free holiday reading.

Where better to start than at the beginning, of course. My inauspicious entry into the
profession, and my confessions of naivety, are chronicled in Chapter 1 - Look No Maths. Read
it online now below.

More to follow so sign up for our email or follow @breakinglaw on Twitter to get news of the next
riveting instalment.

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Solicitor Shopping:New Rules On Price Info

From tomorrow 06 December 2018 solicitors must prominently display on their website, information on the prices they would charge for their services if you hired them. Should they not have a website, they are probably still using quill pens and sitting at their desks in bowler or decorative hats but the info must then be made available on request.

If you think of hiring a solicitor without price information you are probably too rich or mad - or both. But do remember this. The cheapest solicitor may not be the best and, as with prosecco and socks, you gets what you pays for! The cheapest solicitor may be reluctant to actually see you face to face more than once and be running their outfit from a caravan on a bomb site (which is not of itself a dreadful thing provided there are some toilet facilities).

The changes will make it easier to mentally compose a short list of solicitors who might suit you. Much of the info would have had to be made available by a solicitor you actually hired. Now you will get it without having first to make contact with the solicitor.

So for precisely which legal services must this price info be provided? Residential conveyancing, obtaining probate or letters of administration where there is no contest, motoring offences which are only dealt with in the magistrates’ court, tribunal claims for unfair or wrongful dismissal and immigration cases (excluding asylum application). For businesses, the services caught are debt recovery for up to £100,000 (that’s the amount of the debt, not the price), defending tribunal claims for unfair or wrongful dismissal and licensing applications for business premises.

And what is the price info which is to be given? Principally, the fixed charge or the average cost or range of costs, the basis for the charges including any hourly rates, a description and amount of any likely disbursements and the experience and qualifications of who will be carrying out the work. The last bit is especially interesting and important. After all, you don’t want to pay through the nose for work done by the office cat.

You’ll find lots of tips on sourcing the right solicitor for your job and what to check on before committing yourself to using them in Breaking Law. The price is on the cover. I think!

Sunday 2 December 2018

Selling Your Invoices: New Law

If you are running a small or medium sized business, pin back your lug holes. You may have outstanding invoices against other businesses which are spending more time on studying the Brexit deal than paying their creditors. Or perhaps the deadline for settlement of the invoices has not yet arrived. And this causes you cash flow problems.

What's the solution? You could sell your invoices to a finance company which means they will pay you something in the region of 80% of their value and they step into your shoes and collect what is due from the debtors as and when it is due.

'There's a b....y problem with that, ' did you say? You have been forced to sign contracts with your debtors which prohibits you from following the course I have suggested and assigning the benefit of the invoices to a third party like a finance company? A prohibition like this is far from uncommon. Finance companies which have taken an assignment can be much more aggressive about collecting on the invoices than the businesses who sent them out.

The law is changing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland  -for which you can give thanks to the Business Contract Terms (Assignment of Receivables) Regulations 2018 SI/2018/1254 - in relation to contracts made on or after 31 December 2018.
The change will not apply to a large enterprise (which is defined by the regulations). A business which is run by  a sole trader, partnership, unincorporated association, company to which the small companies regime applies or which qualifies as a medium-sized company under the Companies Act 2006 or a limited liability partnership will not be classified as a large enterprise and so will be able to assign away with abandon.

But some contracts are excluded from the new law including those for prescribed financial services, an interest in land and the transfer of a business but provided it includes a statement to that effect. Also out are contracts where at least one of the parties is not in business and where none of the parties is in business in the UK.