Festive Special #SolicitorChat with The Law Society.

Many topics were covered in 2020, and we ended the year with a special festive chat. See below what we discussed for the final #SolicitorChat of 2020.

Join The Law Society and other firms discussing a different topic each week on Thursday mornings at 0900-1000.

Are there any particular legal issues you see a rise in around Christmas time?

For separated families, the recently introduced ‘Christmas COVID Rules’ have added confusion and challenges. Our Family team has seen a significant increase in families seeking help to try and agree yuletide arrangements. Although children will still be allowed to move between their parents’ homes post-Christmas regardless of lockdown restrictions, some parents have used the ongoing pandemic as a reason to restrict contact arrangements. This has inevitably led to disputes.

The Residential Property team has been particularly busy as there are now less than 15 weeks to go until the end of the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) holiday. Many are looking to move in to their new homes for the start of the festive season. This year has been busier than usual with some extreme delays with local authority searches and mortgage acceptance threatening to prevent clients completing the move in time for Christmas.

What can clients do if they need urgent legal advice over the Christmas period?

Many firms including ours will be taking a well-earned break over the Christmas period. We are closed from 5pm on the 23 December until the 4 January. If clients are concerned about a matter becoming an issue during this time then they should try and book an appointment before the break.

Mundays are operating as usual despite Covid and we can see clients in person or remotely.

In addition to attempting to see your solicitor there are a number of resources online (Advicenow or Citizens Advice) that may assist people with an issue.

If a ticketed festive event is cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions, what rights does someone have to a refund?

The Coronavirus crisis continues to require the cancellation of many festive events as large gatherings remain banned. The end of the outbreak is unfortunately not yet in sight and the Government will continue to take steps to protect the population. All of us have come to realise just how different festivities will be this year.

Whether consumers are entitled to a refund will depend on the ticketing terms and conditions and consumer protection legislation. The person should consider the terms and conditions to see if it deals with cancellations. In the absence of express cancellation provisions, an event organiser would be required to perform is obligations and be potentially liable to the other side if it fails to do so. The coronavirus pandemic could, however, be considered a force majeure (superior force) event as the organisers are prevented from putting the festive on due to Government restrictions. If the cancellation clause only gives the event organiser the right to cancel, but no right (or very limited rights) to the consumer ticket-holder, then the clause may be found unfair and the event organiser may not be able to rely on it.

If a ticketed festive event is cancelled, it ultimately depends on where the ticket was purchased. If it was from the event organiser or an official seller, the person will be able to get a refund directly. Where a ticket seller is regulated by the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), that body’s regulations may require it to refund the ticket’s face value when an event is cancelled. It is, however, unlikely the booking fees will be reimbursed. If the tickets was bought from a secondary ticket seller, you have fewer protections and the individual is unlikely to get a refund. The individual should contact the company they bought the tickets from directly in the first instance. A refund should be one option but alternatives could be offered, provided the consumer is not pressured against requesting a refund. Cancelling events without refunding ticket holders would have a negative impact on their brand and so this is unlikely.

Santa’s elves are taking on extra shifts over the Christmas period, what employment rights should they be aware of?

The Working Time Regulations entitle Santa’s elves to:

  • A minimum Daily Rest period of 11 hours uninterrupted rest between finishing their job and starting the next day.
  • A Weekly Rest period of 24 hours uninterrupted rest within each seven day period or, at the Employers choice, a Fortnightly Rest Period of 48 consecutive hours within each 14 day period. This should not include any part of the daily rest period.
  • A break of 20 minutes if their daily working day is more than six hours long. Depending on the contract of employment this may be paid or unpaid.
  • A maximum working week of 48 hours on average. This is generally averaged over a 17 week period.

The elves may be entitled to additional pay on bank holidays over the Christmas period. There is, however, no statutory right to extra pay and any right depends on the terms of their contract of employment with Mr and Mrs Claus. If a bank holiday falls on one of the elves’ normal working days and they do not wish to take the day off, the elves could see if they could work the bank holiday and take another day off ‘in lieu’. The contract of employment may well set out provisions in this respect. Santa may also have an overtime or holiday policy which would set out the position.

If Santa leaves a faulty gift under the Christmas tree, what steps should someone take?

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, the individual is legally entitled to return goods that do not meet the following criteria:

  • ‘Satisfactory quality’ – goods should not be faulty or damaged and in a reasonable condition. This means that if there is a minor defect, it must fall below what a reasonable person would consider satisfactory;
  • ‘Fit for purpose‘– the goods should be fit for all the purposes that they are usually supplied for.
  • ‘As described’ – the goods should measure up to the description given at the time of the purchase.

If goods do not meet this criteria, then the individual will have up to 30 days from the date they take ownership of the product to receive a full refund.

If the 30-day period is missed, the individual will have fewer rights. In the first six months after the purchase the retailer is permitted to attempt one repair or offer a replacement. The individual will be entitled to a refund if the repair is unsuccessful. After 6 months, the retailer must only repair or replace the goods.

It is useful for the individual to have a gift receipt or a proof of purchase, such as a credit card statement.

The contents of this article are intended as guidance for readers. It can be no substitute for specific advice. Consequently we cannot accept responsibility for this information, errors or matters affected by subsequent changes in the law, or the content of any website referred to in this article. © Mundays LLP


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