Co-operative Legal Services

Co-operative Legal Services are being watched by thousands of independent solicitors throughout the country. They were one of the first organisations to be granted an Alternative Business Structure licence by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in 2012.

What’s all the fuss? Certain services can only be provided by solicitors including conveyancing and litigation and prior to October 2011 only solicitors could employ solicitors to offer those services. This effectively meant that solicitors had a monopoly on those services however as of October 2011 other organisations, not necessarily owned by solicitors, have been able to apply for licences to become Alternative Business Structures and to offer regulated services.

It was dubbed “Tesco law” as people speculated that the likes of Tesco would wish to offer legal services. As it happens, I am not aware that Tesco has shown any interest in offering legal services however the Co-op group has and hence the birth of Co-operative Legal Services.

So how are the Co-operative Legal Services doing? According to the Law Society Gazette they posted a £3.4m loss in the first half of 2013. The Co-op Group are not doing too well either as according to the BBC they made losses of more than £2bn in 2013.

I’ve just had a look on the website of Co-operative Legal Services to see whether they have any branches in Essex. However, all I could find was a local rate telephone number so I’m none the wiser whether you can see a solicitor from the Co-operative Legal Services in Essex.

Liam Hastings is a solicitor at Hastings & Co Solicitors. Hastings & Co Solicitors is a niche solicitor’s practice in Chelmsford, Essex specialising in debt collection, litigation, employment law, personal injury, landlord and tenant and commercial law. For independent advice contact us on 01245 835 305.

Court fee rises

The Ministry of Justice has announced that court fees in the County Court and High Court will rise (in most instances) from 22 April 2014.

For money claims up to £1,500 the fees for issuing claims will stay the same. However, for money claims exceeding £1,500 in value there will be rises across the board and in some cases the increase will be as much as 81%.

Take for example a claim worth between £5,000 and £10,000 the court issue fee will rise from £245 to £445.

For landlords, court fees for issuing claims for possession will rise from £175 to £280.


The government is trying to reduce the cost burden of the Civil Justice system on taxpayers. However, we strongly believe that having access to justice is a fundamental part of any civilised society. It is a key feature of a democratic society that its citizens should have civil rights and they should have access to justice if those rights are infringed.

Hastings & Co Solicitors specialise in debt collection and litigation. Telephone 01245 835 305 for advice without any obligation.


Credit companies owe consumers a duty of care

The Supreme Court ruled this week that credit companies owe consumers a duty of care when blacklisting them.

Richard Durkin of Scotland bought a computer from PC World in 1998. The computer cost £1,499. He paid £50 and then entered into a credit agreement with HFC Bank. When he discovered that the computer did not have an inbuilt modem he returned it to PC World. Eventually, PC World repaid his £50 however the HFC Bank told him he needed to continue making the payments on the credit agreement. When he did not, HFC Bank blacklisted his credit.

In 2008 the Aberdeen Sheriff Court ruled that Mr Durkin was entitled to reject the computer and end the credit agreement. Mr Durkin was awarded damages of £116,000. That sum was dramatically reduced on appeal to the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The decision was appealled to the Supreme Court.

This case establishes that if you buy goods using a credit agreement, and if you validly reject the goods and terminate the contract of sale you may also validly end the credit agreement. It is also establishes that credit companies owe consumers a duty of care. So that if a credit company wants to blacklist a consumer’s credit rating, if the consumer is asserting that they have validly ended the credit agreement, the credit company has a duty to make sure that they are genuinely in default of the credit agreement.

Hastings & Co solicitors specialise in civil litigation. For advice or assistance telephone 01245 835 305.

Disclaimer: this blog is only intended to give a brief overview of the law and is not intended as a substitute for independent legal advice.


Employment law update: financial penalties for employers

From 6th April 2014 Employment Tribunals will have the discretion to levy financial penalties for employers for breaches of employment law.

The changes are introduced by Section 16 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 which amends Section 12 of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996.

These penalties will be in addition to any compensation which is payable to the employee however the Employment Tribunal will only be able to levy a penalty where there are one or more “aggravating features”. The imposition of the levy will be completely at the discretion of the Employment Tribunal however the Employment Tribunal will have much less discretion over the amount of the penalty, which must be 50% of the amount of compensation awarded to the employee (subject to a £5,000 cap). There is a 50% discount on the levy if paid within 21 days. The levy goes to the Secretary of State and not the employee.

The Employment Tribunal must have regard to an employer’s ability to pay when deciding whether to order the employer to pay a penalty.

This comes shortly after other changes which could affect how much employers who lose claims will pay.

Fees in the Employment Tribunal

Fees were introduced for Employment Tribunal claims commencing after July 2013. When they were introduced it was unclear whether employers would be ordered to pay the fees of successful claimants however recent guidance from the Lord Chancellor indicates that losing employers should be ordered to reimburse the fees paid.

ACAS Code of Practice

Employment Tribunals can increase the compensation payable to employees by up to 25% where the employer has failed to follow the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.


It has always been the case that employers can pay a heavy price for failing to comply with employment laws. However the situation is now much worse for employers in breach of employment law.

Employers wishing to discipline, dismiss or make redundant employees should ensure that they follow all the necessary procedures and any employer who is unsure should seek advice.

Hastings & Co Solicitors specialise in litigation and employment law.

T. 01245 835 305.

Disclaimer: this blog is only intended to give a brief overview of the law and is not intended as a substitute for independent legal advice.

Debt recovery case study: Hastings & Co Solicitors recover £56,000 for building contractor

We recently acted for a building contractor that was owed in the region £56,000 by a major house builder.

Upon being instructed we issued legal proceedings and managed to recover the full face value of the debt together with sufficient compensation and interest to cover our charges.

Hastings & Co Solicitors are experts in debt recovery. If you are owed money, whether you are a business or a private individual, telephone 01245 835 305 without any obligation.


Pothole claims – Widow of dead cyclist is planning to sue council

The widow of a dead cyclist is planning to sue North Yorkshire Council after her husband died when hitting a pothole while riding his bike, reports the BBC.

Martin Uzzell, from Somerset, was on a charity bike ride in 2011 with two friends when he hit a pothole and was thrown into the path of a car.

An inquest into his death revealed that the Council had missed opportunities to repair the pothole.

Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 imposes a duty on “highways authorities” to maintain highways.

Section 59 of the Highways Act 1980 gives the highway authority a defence to a claim if it can show that it has in place a reasonable system of inspection and repair. Accordingly, all highway authorities will have systems in place and when confronted with a claim will produce inspection records. It is then the job of the personal injury solicitor to carefully scrutinise the maintenance records to see whether the system in place is effective.

Hastings & Co Solicitors specialise in personal injury claims including pothole claims against Essex County Council and other local authorities. For a free assessment without any obligation please telephone 01245 835 305.

Disclaimer: this blog is only intended to give a brief overview of the law and is not intended as a substitute for independent legal advice.

Employment law update: early conciliation

The Employment Tribunals (Early Conciliation: Exemptions and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2014 comes into force on the 6th April 2014 introducing compulsory “early conciliation”, also known as “pre-claim conciliation”.

From 6th April 2014 Claimants must contact ACAS before issuing a claim in the employment tribunal. There is no actual requirement to engage in conciliation however ACAS will offer conciliation.

The rules can be summarised as follows:-

1. Before issuing a claim in the employment tribunal Claimants must either fill in the early conciliation form (this can be done online or by post) or telephone ACAS. Initially, the only information that the Claimant has to give is the Claimant’s name and address and the employer’s name and address.

2. ACAS must then make reasonable efforts to contact the Claimant and if the Claimant consents they must make reasonable efforts to contact the employer.

3. The parties then have one calendar month to try and reach a settlement (although this may be extended by up to 14 days if the parties consent).

4. If a settlement is not reached or the ACAS conciliation officer considers that a settlement is not possible, ACAS must issue an Early Conciliation Certificate. Only then may the Claimant submit claim in the employment tribunal.

5. The Early Conciliation Certificate will contain a certificate number which the Claimant will need to insert on the ET1 claim form.

What about time limits?

The usual time limits stop during the early conciliation period and if the usual time limit for issuing a claim would otherwise have expired during the early conciliation period, the Claimant benefits from a month’s extension of time from the end of the conciliation period.

Hastings & Co Solicitors specialise in all aspects of employment law including disputes. For further advise or assistance please telephone 01245 835 305 without any obligation.

Disclaimer: this blog is only intended to give a brief overview of the law and is not intended as a substitute for independent legal advice.

Cooling off rights

If goods are faulty and you act quickly enough you will usually have the right to reject them and get a refund. However, you are not always entitled to a refund just because you change your mind. Having said that there are a few situations where you do have cooling off rights.

Check the Seller’s returns policy

Some retailers have a no quibble returns policy if the goods are returned within a certain time limit. So, if you do change your mind it’s worth checking the seller’s terms and conditions to see what their policy is.

The Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work etc Regulations 2008

These regulations apply to contracts between businesses and consumers which are made in the consumer’s home, or place of work or somewhere else away from the trader’s business premises. The rules apply if the contract is made whilst the trader is in your home, or place of work. So, it wouldn’t apply if the trader later sends you a written quotation which you later accept on the telephone or in writing.

Usually there is a 7 day cooling off period however some contracts are excluded so the rules need to be checked carefully.

The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000

The Distance Selling Regulations apply to contracts made by consumers by mail order, online or over the phone. There is a 7 day cooling off period although once again some contracts are excluded so the rules need to be checked carefully.

Consumer Credit Act agreements

Consumers usually get a 14 day cooling off period when signing a credit agreement.

Hastings & Co Solicitors are a niche solicitor’s practice in Chelmsford specialising in dispute resolution.

T. 01245 835 305.

Disclaimer: this blog is only intended to give a brief overview of the law and is not intended as a substitute for independent legal advice.


How to make a claim in the small claims court

Strictly speaking there isn’t a “small claims court”, however, claims for less than £10,000 (before 1st April 2013 it was £5,000) in the County Court are usually allocated to the small claims track and these are often referred to by the public as the “small claims court”.

One of the key features of the small claims track is that only limited legal costs are usually recoverable from the opponent. This does not mean that you cannot instruct a solicitor to act for you, however, it does mean that you may not be able to recover all of their charges if you do. Because of this, a lot of claimants and defendants in the small claims track are unrepresented (we call them litigants in person).

This is a step by step guide to starting a small claim.

Step 1 is to try and resolve your dispute before issuing legal proceedings. This can be done by sending the other person a “letter before claim”. The letter should set out what you are claiming and why.

Step 2  is to fill in an N1 Claim Form. The form is fairly self explanatory. A few tips: (1) make sure you put the correct name and address for the defendant, for example, is it Bob the Builder or Bob the Builder Limited? If your contract was with Bob the Builder Limited then you can’t sue Bob the Builder personally. (2) The amount of the court fee is determined by the value of the claim – see court form EX050. (3) You will need to state on the form what your preferred court is. In Essex, there are County Courts in Romford, Chelmsford, Colchester, Southend and Basildon.

Step 3 is to send 2 copies of the N1 Claim Form to the following address:

County Court Money Claims Centre
PO Box 527
M5 0BY

You will need to enclose a cheque to cover the court fee. The cheque should be made payable to “HMCTS” (which stands for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service). For every additional defendant send an extra form eg if there are 2 defendant send 3 forms.

Step 4. Within about 7 days the court should “issue” the claim and send it to the defendant by post. The defendant will then have 14 days to file either an acknowledgement of service or a defence. If they file an acknowledgement of service they will then have a further 14 days (ie 28 days in total) to file their defence.

Step 5. This will depend whether the claim is defended or not. If no defence or acknowledgement of service is filed then you can request judgment in default. This is done by completing the Request for Judgment form at the bottom of the Notice of Issue. This is a form which the court sends the claimant once the claim has been issued.

If the claim is defended then the court will send both parties a Directions Questionnaire to complete and return to the court.

Step 6. Once the court has the Directions Questionnaires back it will make “directions”. For small claims the case will usually be listed for a hearing lasting about 1.5 hours and usually the parties would be required to exchange witness statements and documents no later than 14 days prior to the hearing. The whole process usually takes 3-6 months.

Hastings & Co Solicitors are experts in litigation and disputes based in Chelmsford, Essex, acting for clients throughout Essex.

T. 01245 235 835

Disclaimer: this blog is only intended to give a brief overview of the law and is not a substitute for independent legal advice.

What happens if I buy stolen goods?

If you are unlucky enough to buy stolen goods, the law will not come to your rescue, even if you have acted in good faith and did not know that the goods were stolen. This principle applies to all stolen goods including cars.

So you buy a car and it turns out to be stolen. The law returns the car to the rightful owner. However, the innocent purchaser will have a claim against the person that sold the stolen car to them. And so it goes back up the chain.

Section 21(1) of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 says:

“Subject to this act, where goods are sold by a person who is not their owner, and who does not sell them under the authority or with the consent of the owner, the buyer acquires no better title to the goods than the seller had, unless the owner of the goods is by his conduct precluded from denying the seller’s authority to sell.”

Hastings and Co Solicitors specialise in litigation and dispute resolution.

Tel: 01245 835 305

Disclaimer: this blog is only intended to give a brief overview of the law and is not intended as a substitute for independent legal advice.