A Consumer Law Report Criticises Hidden Charges

A number of legal reforms were proposed by the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission. The intention of these reforms is to protect consumers from unfair charges in contracts.

A report was released today due to which report, courts should have the power to rule on the fairness of prices in cases where they have been hidden away in the small print.

Courts now have the possibility to assess when the terms of the contract are fair and when they are not, but are not allowed to interfere when talking about the actual price.

The suggested reforms will give consumers the option to complain of unfair hidden costs.

These proposals will affect companies offering different kinds of services- from mobile phone contracts to airline tickets.

If prices are clear they will be able to set their own prices. The courts, however, would be allowed to intervene when they find unclear phrasing leading to additional fees or jargon which confuses consumers.

Many companies are in fact tempted to fill their contracts with hidden charges which makes them look as if they offer better deals than their competitors.

According to this report the current law makes it almost impossible for consumers to seek redress.

David Hertzell, the project’s commissioner lead for the Law Commission, said: “The current law is baffling – so much so that consumers and regulators are reluctant to challenge unfair charges.”

Both companies and customers now suffer from the unclearness of the law.

Another proposal of the Commission’s report is on the terms of purchased software. According to it there must be serious changes in the terms to which consumers agree when installing software they have recently bought.

These terms are often full of legal jargon so that consumers are almost never able to find out what exactly they are signing up for

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Budget 2013 Announced

The specifics of the 2013 Budget were announced yesterday. Chancellor George Osborne said that the main changes of the budget will cover the financial direction of the country.

Government made many attempts to reach to the average consumer. Some of them are the

3p rise in fuel duty in September and beer duty cut by 1p.

No matter wine, cider, spirits and cigarettes were brooked no quarter, with the duty their prices continued rising.

About £6,000 a year will be the sum that people will save from 2015 due to the tax relief available on childcare payments.

In 2014, a year earlier than expected, the point at which income tax becomes payable will increase to £10,000.

The £144 per week flat-rate pension which was planned to take place in 2017 will also come into play a year earlier. Another feature of the Budget is the £72,000 cap on the maximum amount payable by elderly people for their care costs.

The Help to Buy Scheme will help people purchase their own homes offering government-backed interest-free loans and reduced cost mortgages.

Unfortunately these caveats are nothing more than a backdrop to continued cuts.

The limited rise of 1% for the Public sector will stay unchanged until 2015-2016 and the government department budgets will be reduced by 1% for each of the next two years.

About £10bn was the sum which was expected to be saved from the government but the latest data show that it will increase to £11.5bn.

The private sector will be stable. The attempts to coax skittish business into the UK will bring a drop of the corporation tax by 1% to 20%

Many employers will be allowed to claim an Employment Allowance of £2,000 a year in order to cover some of the costs of their National Insurance payments.

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Royal Charter On Press Regulation Prompts Papers To Seek Legal Advice

Several prominent UK newspapers announced they are against the plans of a Royal Charter on press regulation.

Early on Monday representatives for Labour the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats managed to reach an agreement to hammer out the charter.

Despite the fact that David Cameron promised that if the changes happen the press regulator would not be backed by statutory underpinning, some in the press do believe that such step would probably affect the free speech.

A joint statement of the Daily Mail Group, Telegraph Media Group and News International appeared claiming that magazine and newspaper members were not invited at the negotiations in which the deal was struck.

A group representing the UK newspapers shared their view that due to the Charter smaller newspapers will probably be hit by large fines and compensation claims so they will not have the needed freedom to publish.

“Lord Justice Leveson found that the UK’s local media had nothing to do with the phone hacking scandal which prompted the Inquiry,” NS president Adrian Jeakings said. “Indeed, he praised regional and local newspapers for their important social and democratic role and recommended that the regulatory model proposed should not provide an added burden to our sector.”

According to Kirsty Hughes, the Index on Censorship CEO, Royal Charter’s clause would affect bloggers as their freedom of speech would also be limited.

In a statement Ms Hughes said that blogs would be regulated under the new law.

However, last night Downing Street announced that bloggers will not be covered by this regulator.

The editor of the Independent, Chris Blackhurst, said: “Ideally we would not want any new regulatory system at all, but that was never going to happen. This isn’t perfect but neither is it terrible.

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Parties Quarrelling over Press Regulation Deal

The three main political parties made a deal on the regulation of the press.  The final decision is that there needs to be an independent regulator by royal charter.

David Cameron is about to apply for an emergency debate soon.

The whole problem started when journalists were revealed to have hacked thousands of phones.

In the opinion of Lord Justice Leveson, press needed a new, independent regulator backed by legislation.

The deal which was struck on Monday defined that there was almost no way for a royal charter to be changed. The only way this happens is if it meets requirements stated within specific charters for amendments.

In announcement Mr. Cameron said:”What we wanted to avoid, and we have avoided, is a press law,”
“Nowhere will it say what this body is, what it does, what it can’t do, what the press can and can’t do. That, quite rightly, is being kept out of Parliament. So, no statutory underpinning but a safeguard that says politicians can’t in future fiddle with this arrangement.”

Mr. Miliband mentioned that in near future royal charter would stop ministers influence the press.

In the powers of the new regulator will be included the opportunity to impose fines and force a newspaper to issue corrections and apologies.

In the words of Mr. Clegg he was more than delighted on this cross-party agreement.

“We’ve secured the cherished principle of freedom of the press, which is incredibly important in our democracy, but also given innocent people the reassurance that we won’t be unjustifiably bullied or intimidated by powerful interests in the press without having proper recourse when that happens.”

People who think they have become victims of press abuse would be offered a free arbitration service.

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Share of Joint Property Passing by Survivorship

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There is no obligation to accept an inheritance either under the terms of a Will, an intestacy or by right of survivorship. When an inheritance is not wanted a Deed of Variation can be used to redirect the inheritance to another beneficiary. Thus, a beneficiary who is entitled to part of a deceased person’s estate under a Will, intestacy or by right of survivorship can use a Deed of Variation to redirect the inheritance to another beneficiary of their choice.

Under the doctrine of survivorship where property is owned by two persons as joint tenants if one owner dies then their interest in the property passes to the survivor. Sometimes the surviving joint tenant may not want the property; in these circumstances the surviving joint can use a Deed of Variation to redirect the inheritance.

There are many reasons why beneficiaries may wish to vary or redirect assets held in a deceased person’s estate, one of the main reasons is to save Inheritance Tax.

When an original beneficiary uses a Deed of Variation in order to make some sort of gift and to redirect all or part of an inheritance, the gift, for Tax purposes, will be treated as having been made by the deceased person and not by the original beneficiary.

In certain situations a Deed of Variation may be used to avoid paying Inheritance Tax, provided that it is executed within two years of death.

If the Deed of Variation is executed within two years of death and contains a statement that it is intended that section 62(6) of the Taxation of Chargeable Gains Tax Act 1992 should apply, in most cases the transfer will not constitute a disposal for capital gains tax purposes. It takes effect from the date of death and works as if the distribution of the deceased’s estate had incorporated the variation.

A Deed of Variation is not retrospective for Income Tax purposes. Any income which is payable to the original beneficiary after the death of the deceased, but before execution of the deed of variation, is taxable as the income of that beneficiary.

A Deed of Variation – Share of Joint Property Passing by Survivorship shall be used where the person receiving the inheritance owned property jointly with the deceased, acquired the deceased’s interest in the property by the right of survivorship and wishes to give that interest to some other person.


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Justice Secretary Invites World To Settle Legal Disputes In The UK

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling sent invitations to litigants from the whole globe offering them to bring their legal issues to London.

He wanted to promote the UK legal services market across the world, mentioning that “any plan to promote UK industry abroad that ignored legal services would be like going to Wimbledon and missing the tennis”.

Yearly legal services bring about £3.5 billion as only the battle between Roman Abramovich and fellow Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky made as much as £100 million pounds for the lawyers in London.

In an announcement at London law firm Allen & Overy, Mr Grayling said he intended to increase the sum that the British legal services market makes to the UK economy each year.

In the words of Mr. Grayling, Britain is one of the countries with the best reputation when speaking about law but he desired to go further “Promoting industry. Promoting growth. Promoting jobs. Encouraging international businesses to come to the UK to have contracts written and disputes resolved.”

He also mentioned that UK courts were cheaper and worked faster than those in other European countries. This is why in his opinion foreign litigants would be attracted by the fame of the UK legal system.

“We’re a world leader in legal services. London is the venue of choice for more international and commercial cases than any other city on earth. This is a sector that contributes over £20 billion to the UK economy.”

Unfortunately lawyers made complaints that as wealthy people from all over the world were invited to London at the same time there are many UK citizens who are being denied access to justice because of the cuts in legal aid.

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Failure of Press Regulation Talks

David Cameron promised that on Monday they would publish plans for tougher press regulator.

According to Campaign group Hacked Off the announcement of the prime minister “shows that he’s still protecting his friends in the press and betraying press abuse victims”.

On Monday, MPs will debate the proposals of Conservatives.

In the words of Mr. Cameron the easiest way for creating the “toughest” regulatory system in the world is the royal charter.

The report of Lord Justice Leveson from November called for a new independent press watchdog underpinned by legislation. Due to the report, the behaviour of nowadays press was “outrageous”.

On a recent conference, Mr. Cameron said that the talks on press reform did not achieve any success. No matter that Cameron has decided to pre-empt them and to pick a fight on his own terms  there is no way that he is not attacked for abandoning the victims. He announced he was fighting for press freedom against such people who want to shackle the press.

Probably the calculations of David Cameron pointed out that he would look like a leader after the Downing Street news conference despite the fact that his own party wondered whether he should move on working this job.

The examples he gave about stressing press treatment were the families of missing girl Madeleine McCann and murdered teenager Milly Dowler mentioning he wanted to prevent such other cases.

“It crosses the Rubicon in terms of endangering press freedoms,” he said.

In his statement, David Cameron said that plans he wanted to put forward were “workable” and most “deliverable”. The way he has chosen was the fastest possible in order to deliver the strong self-regulation body.

Mr. Cameron called other parties to support his proposal or come up with their own ones. On the other hand, he warned them that their plans would probably not work.

“If you establish a system that people don’t take part in you haven’t solved the problem.”

According to the Labour leader Mr. Miliband, Mr Cameron was “making an historic mistake” and this would not be a solution for the victims of press intrusion.

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A Twitter “ban” for MP Sarah Wollaston

Sarah Wollaston was one of the Conservative MP’s warned to stop posting critical comments for the party leadership on Twitter but she refused to do it.

She did not agree with the remark of chief Lynton Crosby in whose statement they had to decide if they were “commentators or participants”.

In this respect Mrs Wollaston told the BBC News website.

“I think it’s important that if you are a backbench MP you’re there to be a critical friend and to scrutinise government policy”.

She called herself a “Cameron Loyalist” in whose opinion talk of leadership challenges should end. Sarah added that she had the right to comment both policy and party leadership when she felt she had to.

The press recently quoted Wollaston’s post on Tweeter saying: “Inner circle still look far too posh, male and white and Cameron is running out of time to fix it”.

She mentioned she just wanted to find out what was the public view over the cabinet.

Mrs. Wollaston was not the only MP criticizing the party leadership on Twitter. Other names that became popular because of this scandal are Michael Fabricant and Peter Bone with their accusations of sending “mixed messages” over immigration and committing 0.7% of state spending to foreign aid was wrong.

For the meeting at Tuesday Tory MPs were urged to focus on selling the party’s message and stop talking about the problems that social media cause to them. The other thing they had to stress on was the fact that on the next elections people would be able to choose between having Mr Cameron or Ed Miliband in Downing Street.

Labour Vice Chairman Michael Dugher said: “Things are so bad for Cameron that he is reduced to gagging his own backbench MPs on Twitter because he is fearful they will tell it how it is.”

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A Ban on Animal Testing for Cosmetics

The EU banned the sale of cosmetic products, which have firstly been tested on animals.

The news of this ban came on Monday. Until now, cosmetic companies were banned from tasting their products only in countries from the EU but the new one will prohibit testing ingredients anywhere in the world.

According to the new rules, companies will not be allowed to test on animals products, which may cause them different allergies and cancer.

Unfortunately in the words of German MEP Dagmar Roth-Behrendt due to a loophole in the ban companies will not stop testing products claiming they were for non-cosmetic purposes as for example for pharmacy.

No matter this view, groups taking care for animal rights assumed this ban as a victory.

Gavin Grant, from the RSPCA, said: “Animal testing in the name of beauty has never been acceptable. This landmark legislation at the end of a long campaign sends out a loud and clear message to other countries and those companies operating outside the EU.”

In the opinion of Troy Seidle, from the Humane Society International, the new ban changed the way people looked at certain products claiming they would not use shampoos or mascaras tested on rabbits.

The ban will not affect those products the ingredients of which were tested on animals before the ban started functioning.

Big companies including L’Oreal have taken the decision to stop selling products tested on animals as a step to stop this practice.

Of course, there are such people who did not like the idea.

According to Colin Mackey it would be difficult for Europe to have any access to new products, as there are no safe alternatives of animal testing.

“Europe’s idea is to put more pressure on other parts of the world to end animal testing, but the science doesn’t match that political timetable,” he said.

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Children in Danger Because of Neglecting

The NSPCC announced that there are many cases in which children die or there are long-term damages on their health due to child neglect. This is why it may be assumed as seriously as physical or sexual abuse.

The charity gave money for a study investigating different stories from the past decade connected to children’s deaths. It is looking for a “strategic approach” to solve the problem.

The University of East Anglia published a report analyzing 645 cases in England from 2005 until 2011- cases in which teenagers were either seriously injured or died due to some kind of abuse.

175 of these cases involved children in risk; 101 of which are now part of the protection register as victims of physical or sexual abuse.

Ruth Gardner, from the NSPCC, said: “This study is the first time anyone has looked behind the stark figures to try to understand the complex dangers of neglect.

We now have clear evidence that neglect can lead to catastrophic harm as well as corrosive long-term damage to children’s well-being.”

The cases of Peter Connelly and Khyra Ishaq are examples of cases in which the authorities were criticised for not acting on concerns.

Khyra’s mother and her partner kept her and their other children locked out of their kitchen. Due to this way of life, Khyra starved to death no matter that her neighbours and school tried to do something in order to change the things.

According to NSPCC, expert social workers have to advise children when they feel neglected.

Another thing it calls for is better training so that public could recognize troubled families.

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