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The Consumer Rights Act New Requirements & Remedies for Services

New requirements and remedies should increase certainty and happiness for all

New requirements and remedies should increase certainty and happiness for all

The main provisions of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 are now in force and a large number of our document templates have been reviewed and updated to help you in getting along with the new Act.  As well as bringing many different pieces of legislation together, the Act has also brought with it some new requirements for traders to comply with and remedies to help protect consumers when things don’t work out.  In this post we’ll be taking a look at the rules covering the provision of services.

Legal Requirements for Services

When it comes to the requirements set out in the law, it should come as no surprise (or if it does – as a pleasant one) that your legal obligations do little more than echo good business sense.

What is important here from the legal point of view is the actual performance of the service, not the end result (but let’s face it – you want to keep your customers happy so the end result should be quite important to you!).  As for what “reasonable skill and care” is, that will take account of various factors, including prevailing standards in your particular industry or sector, and the price paid for your services.

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What about the reasonable price and time requirements? For the most part, you won’t find these mentioned in our templates because these rules apply only if the relevant information has not already been given to the customer, or is not already included in the contract (or the customer has not paid a price).  The bottom line: you should always ensure that your customer knows what’s going on.  By making sure that any and all information given to the customer at all stages (both before and after any contract has been made) is detailed and clear – especially on these points – it will be what you have agreed between you and not what the law implies when it comes to price and time for performance that matters.  Again, your goal should be a happy customer and keeping people in the dark doesn’t usually lead to that outcome – so this should be an easy requirement to meet and you have most likely been meeting it since day one!

New Rules on Information

As under the recent Consumer Contracts Regulations, any information you provide to your customers about yourself or your services can be taken as a contractual term.  In addition, the Consumer Rights Act bestows similar status on information provided voluntarily where that information is taken into account by the customer when deciding whether or not to enter into a contract, or where it is taken into account when the customer makes a decision about the service after entering into the contract.

It is important to note that this does not tie you to everything you say – any qualifying statements made at the same time will be taken into account when determining whether or not something you have said or written to the customer should be treated as contractually binding.  Nevertheless, when considering statements made in advertising and other forms of marketing, this is an important point to be aware of.

Returning briefly to the Consumer Contracts Regulations and, more specifically, the pre-contract information requirements that they set out, any such information will also be treated as a contract term.

So what if things change? The key point to the rules governing the binding nature of information given by traders to consumers appears to be the prevention of unilateral changes or – to put it in blunter terms – getting the customer’s business by promising one thing, but actually giving them another.  The information can be changed, provided both the trader and the customer expressly agree to it.  Once more, then, although these are legal requirements and breaching them could have serious ramifications, if you are running an honest business and not trying to mislead your customers, compliance should be a virtual given.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

 If something goes wrong and it turns out that you have not complied with your obligations in some way, the Consumer Rights Act has introduced new remedies for consumers purchasing services.

Services Remedies - Consumer Rights Act 2015

If the service is not performed with reasonable skill and care, the customer will have the right to repeat performance.  If that isn’t possible, or isn’t done within a reasonable time or without inconvenience to the customer, they will have the right to a reduction in price (up to the full price for the service).

If the service isn’t performed within a reasonable time (though remember what we said above about specifying such information in the contract), the customer may have the right to a price reduction.

What about the all-important information? If the service isn’t performed in accordance with information you have provided about it, the same remedies of repeat performance and price reduction will again apply.  If, on the other hand, the problem relates to information you’ve provided about yourself (as opposed to the service), the only remedy on offer from the Consumer Rights Act is a price reduction.

Repeat Performance

The goal of this remedy is to put things right, leaving the customer in the position he or she would have been in had the service been performed correctly in the first place.  The “repeat” part, then, doesn’t necessarily refer to the whole kit and caboodle – you must only perform the service again to the extent required to ensure compliance with the contract.

This must be done within a reasonable time and without causing your customer significant inconvenience.  What’s more, you must not charge the customer for repeat performance – the cost is yours to bear and yours alone.

Remember, if the repeat performance can’t be carried out within a reasonable time, without significant inconvenience to the customer, or if it is simply not possible, the customer should be given a price reduction.

Price Reduction

 In cases where your customer may be entitled to a price reduction, this can be any amount up to and including the full price.  The Consumer Rights Act refers to the price reduction being of “an appropriate amount” – this essentially refers to the difference in value between the service the customer should have received and the value of that which they have actually received.  Remember also that the customer may be entitled to a price reduction if you have provided incorrect information about something else, for example, your business.

Where the customer has already paid something, they may be entitled to a refund as a result of the price reduction.  Under the Consumer Rights Act, refunds must be given “without undue delay” and in any case, within 14 calendar days starting on the day that you agree your customer is entitled to the refund.  Unless the customer expressly agrees otherwise, you must use the same payment method originally used by the customer when they paid in the first place – so no refunding them with useless vouchers when they paid by debit card!  Finally, you may not impose any fee on the customer for issuing the refund.  But you weren’t going to do that anyway, were you?

Onward!

 It is, without a doubt, important to be aware of your obligations under the Consumer Rights Act, and the remedies open to consumers should you fail to comply with those obligations in some way.  With that said, nothing here should come as a particular surprise and, as we have noted more than once, if your goal in business is to keep your customers happy and informed, complying with these rules should be a cinch.

Join us in our next blog post for details on the new digital content provisions of the Consumer Rights Act and in the meantime, feel free to drop us a line with any comments you might have on your life as a service provider under this shiny new legislation!

By Iain Mackintosh

Classic job post faux pas

Everyone knows how difficult it can be to apply for work these days. Just ask all the people currently on the hunt for their perfect jobs. However, what’s often skipped over is just how tricky it can be for firms to post vacancies successfully. There is a real art form to generating appropriate and effective job ads, and there are also a variety of legal pitfalls to avoid.

Thinking about this inspired us to draw attention to some examples of when things go wrong, and to offer some advice covering what to avoid when creating job posts.

Don’t take your cue from these firms!

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There are some bad job ads out there. Highlighting this fact, the Daily Edge compiled a list of some classic recruitment faux pas. Among the epic fails were: “Apply today, pizza cook. Qualifications: Not be a crybag,” and “Now hiring: Fried Turkeys”. Other blunders included “Now hiring: 1 pretty & 2 ugly dancers”, “Help Wanted. Must dominate the English language” and “Now hiring: Must have clue”.

We’re not quite sure what was going through the heads of the individuals who came up with these ads. To help ensure you don’t end up red-faced thanks to your recruitment efforts, take a look at these top tips.

 

The 90s have been and gone

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It’s always tempting to take shortcuts when you’re busy at work, and so you might consider cutting and pasting job ads that were created by your firm in years gone by. If you do this, make sure you update the information and make it relevant to now. You don’t want to come across like a bona fide troglodyte!

For example, perhaps remove the section where it says “Fax, post or email CV to…”.

 

The law is the law

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The last thing you want when trying to hire new staff is to end up in an altercation with the law. This means you have to stay on the right side of anti-discrimination legislation. Phrases to avoid include “young and dynamic” (the dynamic bit’s fine, just not the young), “able-bodied” or anything that implies a gender bias, such as “salesman”. Also, take care not to accidentally discriminate on the basis of religion, race or sexuality.

 

Unnecessary jargon’s a no no

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Stay away from unnecessary jargon too. Phrases like “blue sky thinking” and “laser focussed” have been overused and they can really put potential candidates off. Studies suggest that six in ten job seekers consider jargon annoying. Stick to the facts and you should be OK.

 

Double and triple check your spelling, and then get someone else to!

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After you’ve written job specs and ads, it’s vital that you double and triple check them for typos and spelling mistakes. It also pays off to get someone else to have a look. When you’ve been staring at a document for a long time, it can be impossible to see your mistakes. Remember, you’re representing your organisation, so it’s really important that your text is professional and accurate.

Some of the most ridiculous Ts and Cs you’ll ever see

End User Licensing Agreements are some of the most pointless things on the face of the earth; they’re up there with fridge magnets and Justin Bieber. So let’s celebrate them in all of their ridiculous glory by writing an entire blog post on them. Some of them prevent us from carrying out lifelong ambitions like taking over the war with nuclear weapons (iTunes) whereas others deal in trivial matters like Google’s complete and utter ownership of your digital soul. Let’s look at some of the ‘best’ in the world of EULAs and wonder at our own stupidity for handing over our souls to the digital ether.

iTunes

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iTunes take the proverbial biscuit with this one. There you are wanting to take over the world like that over ambitious mouse from Pinky and the Brain and then you realise you can’t. That last Nickelback album you downloaded has stopped you in your tracks. Time to put the iPod down and put the missiles away then.

 

PC Pitstop

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Here’s one you wish you had read. Whoever read this first and claimed won $1,000. It makes you want to go back through all of the agreements you’ve ever read to recover the fortune you may have had. This EULA is also kind of smart-assed. It’s literally saying ‘You didn’t read me, so I’m going to punish you’ Not cool PC Pitstop. Not cool. It also took someone four months to win the prize. So there’s a lot of other ignorant users out there too, how comforting.

 

Google

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Mephistopheles has been trading as Google for years and we didn’t even know it. We’re handing over our souls to Google? That’s a clause we really should have paid attention to. It’s the use of the words ‘perpetual’ and ‘irrevocable’ it sounds so Shakespearean. I irrevocably disagree, in a state of perpetuum.

 

Far Cry 2

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Video games have slowly been taking over our lives since they invented Sonic the Hedgehog. Now it seems these games are trying to direct our collective moral compass. Whilst this may not necessarily be a bad thing, it may be hard to draw a line in Far Cry 2. What counts as an immoral act? Playing a violent video game might be, best to avoid Far Cry 2 then.

 

The Fallout

So what’s the backlash of all of this ridiculous demanding from anonymous companies? A documentary, that’s what. Some geniuses made a documentary that highlights the power of our personal information and how it is used to make huge amounts of money. And points out that we agreed to it all. Watch the trailer to get yourself thinking.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzyafieRcWE

Ten of the Funniest Exam Answers … Ever

Exams. Love them or loathe them, they’re here for good. No matter how much you revise, prepare, and practice, chances are you’ll find a question you just can’t answer. Most of us would either leave it blank or just take a guess; some of us, though, will make a joke of the situation—and hilarity often ensues.

 

Below, we present ten of the funniest exam answers ever:

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While this student’s spelling might have room for improvement, there’s no arguing with their logical approach to answering the question: they were asked to explain the shape of the graph, and explain it they did!

 

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This is undeniably sweet, not least because the pupil’s drawing looks more like Charlie Brown of ‘Peanuts’ fame than a lion.

 

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Who can argue with this?

 

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While the student seems to have misunderstood the concept of living ‘at the same time as Abraham Lincoln’ (meaning they’d have to be psychic to know Honest Abe’s ultimate fate), their answer is succinct, witty, and demonstrates an impressive grasp of history.

 

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While this answer’s leaning heavily on the ‘cheeky’ side, they’ve highlighted a genuine mistake in the question’s structure. We wonder how this was graded: on the one hand, they’re being pedantic; on the other, they’re spot-on.

 

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Echoing the memorable lyrics of Haddaway’s 90’s classic ‘What is Love?’, this student’s answer is a stroke of absolute genius. Given the subjective, philosophical nature of the question anyway, it’s tough to understand how someone could get the answer ‘wrong’. We hope they got full marks.

 

 
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How can this student receive anything but praise? While we all know this isn’t what the question specified, the student has done as requested and assumed the role of the Chinese immigrant so deeply they’ve even adopted the language!

 

 

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Sexism notwithstanding, there’s no denying this is funny.

 

 

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This is such a sweet answer, it’s hard to imagine the teacher being anything but charmed.  Judging by their bold, underlined ‘not’, however, it’s safe to say they weren’t.

 

 

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While we’re unsure whether this is absolutely genuine or just for one of the most bizarre classes ever, this is nevertheless a fine example of great wit. Who can argue with some of the logic on display here? Answers 7, 9 and 11 are absolute gems, and the teacher seems to have appreciated it.

The Importance of Trusting Your Instincts in Business

The secret of success in business is not one that can be taught. Instead it is one that comes from within. Or at least that was the message from Mary Portas, the retail expert and TV star who hosted this years Small Business Showcase Awards.

When asked about the most important aspect of running a small business, Portas said:  “Follow your instincts. Often we underestimate that… The best things in my life have happened where I’ve followed my instincts.”

These suggestions could be both a blessing and a curse, allowing individuals to have far more control over their own destiny, but far less help on hand to guide them to the right conclusion. However, whilst certain signs may be saying to go one way, if your gut is telling you to do something different, it will indeed be important to trust those instincts over the more logical nature of the brain.

In business, what will set you apart from a pack that all does the same thing is ignoring the route that everyone else will take and opting instead to follow what your intuition tells you. For SMEs, it is a dog eat dog world, and those only following logical paths formulated by ruminating on the pros and cons of a given issue are likely to fall behind. Obviously, there will be many times when such a cerebral approach is sensible, but if your gut is screaming at you to do something else, this deviation from logic could well be what makes you.

How do you know if instinct is right?

Another top tip from Portas is to employ “really great people.” This will help you to understand if your instincts are right. Guiding from the head and not the gut will lead to many anodyne decisions that see you stagnating early and never reaching your full potential. Leading from the gut when it overrules the brain is what will push you ever further and allow you to achieve your goals.

By making sure that every member of your team is excellent at their given role, you will have individuals on hand to help guide your decision-making process. When making decisions about things you are not an expert on, having the opinions of those you can trust will be vital, whilst bouncing ideas off the same people when your instincts are telling you to make a certain decision will help you to see if that decision will indeed be the right move or is just a temporary blip of insanity.

Going your own way

The secret to success is therefore likely to be all about ignoring what seems to make sense and following what you believe – just so long as every other member of your trusted team isn’t screaming warnings against it. Here at Simply Docs, we are aware just how important it is to do things your own way rather than enlisting the help of so-called experts who will not have the same financial or emotional investment in what you are trying to achieve. This is why we offer top-class business templates to help you create business documentation that suits your own unique approach to business, and not documents that so-called outside experts will end up interfering with.

Statutory Sick Pay Changes

No more Statutory Sick Pay reclaims – Abolition of Percentage Threshold Scheme

The Government has ended the Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS) under which employers who suffered from high levels of sickness absence were able to reclaim a portion of their SSP payments. Using the money saved from PTS, which has been described by the DWP as “an outdated system which does nothing to promote or support active management of sickness absences by either the employer or employee”, the Government plans to set up a new Health and Work Service – expected to be set up by the end of the year – which will offer advice, voluntary medical assessments and treatment plans for employees who are off sick. The Government has estimated that the existing arrangements cost £50m per annum and that the new service will cost between £25m to £50m per annum.

Taxable revenues are anticipated to increase by £100m to £215m.

What’s the cost to employers?

A recent survey by MetLife found that one in five SMEs suffers “serious disruption” as a result of staff illness, with employee absence costs taking up around 13% of payroll on average. Although the DWP argues that the “financial loss to business from the ending of the PTS will more than likely be offset by a reduction in lost working days, earlier return to work and increased economic output” some commentators are not reassured. David Heaton of accountants Baker Tilly fears that the inability to reclaim SSP will prove a “huge burden for a small business to bear” and could even result in some small businesses having to close. Meanwhile, speaking in the House of Lords, Baroness Sherlock noted that micro-employers could be particularly heavily hit by the changes.

Will the Health and Work Service work?

According to a leading independent occupational health adviser, there are not enough occupational health therapists to meet the timescale of the Health and Work Service and that proposed phone assessments could end up being “templated rubbish.” So it remains to be seen if the abolition of PTS will simply amount to a further challenge for SMEs without any effective replacement. What do you think – how will the changes affect your business?

Employment Law Changes

It’s that time of year again and April heralds some new changes to Employment law.

Claimants wishing to bring an employment claim will first have to lodge one with ACAS and engage in conciliation before they can proceed to a tribunal, the rationale being that an agreement can be reached between the parties and litigation can be avoided.

Employers will need to exercise greater caution regarding any potential breaches of employment law as the presence of any “aggravating features” exacerbating the breach will land employers with a financial penalty of 50% of the claimant’s award. This penalty will be between £100 and £5,000 but can be reduced if paid within 21 days. Additionally, the compensatory award for unfair dismissal will increases from £74,200 to £76,574 with the weekly pay consideration rising to £464.

The statutory rates have risen again as usual with maternity, ordinary and additional statutory paternity and adoption pay increasing from £136.78 to £138.18. Statutory sick pay has also risen to £86.70.

Employers now have six weeks instead of a month to enrol jobholders into a qualifying pension scheme and the ability for an employee to obtain information from their employer about discrimination has been abolished.

Share your Ideas

As always at Simply-Docs we’ll be continuing to frequently add and refresh the documents we have available on the website.  We understand that we can always be doing more so we’ll be remodelling the corporate and business folders to ensure that you get the most from them.

This year, we also would like to hear more from you. We recognise that we may not always have the documents you are seeking available on the website.  However, we’d like you to let us know what documents you feel could be added to the Simply-Docs website so we can make reasonable endeavours to make them happen for you.

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Image courtesy of creativeoctopus.net

If you have any document suggestions, we would love to hear from you. We want 2014 to be the year where our document expansion is bigger than ever.

We have already created new documents for Business Continuity, a Dress and Appearance Policy and Sponsorship Agreements amongst others as a result of requests we have received in the past.

So if you have any ideas you would like to share with us, let us know and leave your suggestions below.

Simply-Docs Newsletter: Updates and Additions

The focus of our most recent newsletter is the additions and updates to all of the document folders available on the website.

The Business folder has some new Hire & Rentals Terms and Conditions concerning Clothing, Bike Hire and Marquee Hire amongst others. The Car, Van & Truck, Tool Hire and Venue Hire T&C’s have all been updated also.

For those requiring Partnership & LLP documents, the Corporate folder now has some Guidance Notes to help guide you in choosing the right structure for you. There is also the addition of a Basic LLP Agreements, a LLP Checklist and a Transfer of Business by Partnership to LLP template. For further guidance, our Partnership and LLP Comparison Matrix has been updated to provide greater assistance.

The Property folder’s expansion continues with it benefitting from the addition of two new subfolders; Company Lets and Contractual Tenancies.

The COSHH policy in Health & Safety has also been updated to provide greater clarity when dealing with hazardous materials that may affect the health of staff or others.

And finally there are a number of Employment documents that have been added that cover grievances and HR policies such as an Outside Business Interest policy and a Uniform Policy.

There have been a significant number of changes and addition to the folders. You can read our November newsletters to find out more:   

http://simply-docs.co.uk/NewsletterArchive

Whistle Blowing

Whistle blowing is making the news again with officers, past and present, of the Metropolitan police giving evidence at the Commons public administration committee that crime figures have been manipulated to account for lower crime rates than were actually true.

This is not the first time whistle blowing has made headlines, after Julie Bailey exposed the rampant neglect at Mid Staffordshire hospital that had led to hundreds of unnecessary deaths. Whilst Bailey’s revelation led to a public inquiry report damning the lack of “care, compassion, humanity and leadership” at the hospital, she unfortunately suffered a backlash that saw her being bombarded by hate mail and her mother’s grave vandalised.

Although Bailey’s whistle blowing has led to significant changes in the NHS which would see gross neglect of patients become a criminal offence, her quest to seek greater protection for whistle blowers by prosecuting Managers who ignored or silenced them was unsuccessful.

This protection seems ever more warranted after officers at the Metropolitan Police claiming that those who attempted to come forward about the manipulation of crime figures were treated unfairly and often persecuted.  Peter Barron told the committee that whistle blowers were “marginalised” and “judged not to be a team player.”

Another officer, PC Patrick, was also ordered after whistle blowing “not to have contact with the public, external agencies or stakeholders.” Karen Todner, his lawyer, said “He is a whistleblower and what this is about is freedom of expression. This is someone who has tried to raise his concerns through the legitimate channels but was not able to do so.”

In both cases it would appear that the whistleblowers involved had suffered to their detriment when speaking out against practices they felt endangered the public. Patrick notes that there were “serious consequences” of maintaining the status quo. Perhaps Bailey is correct in demanding better protection for whistle blowers if the consequence of failing to do so allows malpractice to go unchecked.

Should you wish to ensure your business has a Whistle blowing Policy that sets out your company’s guidelines and methods in relation to this please see the one available on our website for further guidance.

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