Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Fake reviews can be fatal

Business owners must take action over fake website reviews or risk their company’s reputation, and even its entire future.

Graham Davies, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said with competition for business so fierce, some companies and individuals had resorted to posting fake negative reviews on company websites.

“Research has shown that in 2017, 85% of hotels had been subjected to fake reviews – and that’s an increase from 65% just two years earlier.

“The hospitality industry has been a popular target, but many other industries and small businesses have also been affected. Of course, in business you’re never going to please all of your customers all of the time, but fake reviews left on your website can be extremely damaging.”

Mr Davies said firstly you should check whether the review came from an actual customer or not.

“If you believe it’s not a genuine customer, flag the review up with Google or whichever platform it has been posted on, although they won’t always agree to remove it and this process can take some time. If they won’t take the review down, you should post a reply – don’t be tempted to lose your temper as it will only reflect badly on your company and so help your competitor.

“Compose a dignified and polite reply that explains you have checked your records and that they don’t appear to be listed as a customer, but if they’d like to call you then you’ll deal with their concerns.”

Mr Davies said business owners should not be tempted to bring in a marketing firm that promised to fix their online reputation either.

“The Competition and Markets Authority has recently stepped up its campaign to root out companies who are employed to post fake positive reviews in a bid to redress the balance, so you could still be breaking the law.

“Most importantly, make sure you deal with the review one way or another – if it is a negative comment from a genuine customer, dealing with it constructively and (if it’s appropriate) on a public forum shows you appreciate their concerns and take them on board.

“It’s too dangerous to simply ignore negative comments online as they won’t simply disappear, and they could put the very future of your business at risk in the long term.”

Monday, 14 May 2018

Blame game needs to stop

A Shropshire lawyer has backed calls for changes to the divorce laws in England and Wales that date back almost 50 years.

Gemma Himsworth leads the family law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and she said surveys had shown that some couples were being forced into uncomfortable courtroom battles to establish who caused the relationship breakdown.

“There is no option for couples to opt for a no-fault divorce, and this is leading to unnecessary and unsuccessful court action which can be painful for everyone involved.”

Gemma is a member of Resolution, the national family lawyers’ association, which has recognised the need for a change in the law for many years and whose members have long campaigned for the law to be updated.

“At Martin-Kaye, we always try to keep conflict to a minimum in a divorce case anyway, no matter what the circumstances are. But I would welcome a move towards divorces where neither party has to blame the other, or bring up unpleasant history in order to prove their point.

“In my experience, turning a divorce into a battleground only inflames an already difficult situation, which is of no benefit to anyone,” said Mrs Himsworth.

The only ground for divorce in England and Wales is irretrievable breakdown of a marriage, and there are five specific types – three of which require allegations of fault: adultery, behaviour and desertion. The other two require a minimum of two years’ separation before either party can apply.

Mrs Himsworth said a supreme court hearing this month would consider the only successfully defended divorce case in recent years, where a woman claims she has been left trapped in a “loveless and desperately unhappy” marriage after judges refused to allow here to divorce her husband of 40 years.

“This case clearly indicates that divorce law which is now nearly 50 years old is not working in today’s modern world, and that reform has to be the way forward. But it will require Parliament to change the law and to make the legal divorce a much simpler process – it’s time to introduce a fairer, more child-centred and cost-effective system that causes less pain for everyone involved.

“It’s not right that couples should feel cornered and pressured into defending themselves in a divorce fearing they will get a worse result when it comes to their children or money. Now is the time to stop blaming each other and work together for a more peaceful resolution.”

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Supporting the entrepreneurs of the future

Our Senior Partner Graham Davies has been helping the entrepreneurs of the future develop their business ideas.

He joined the students at Hadley Learning Community as part of this year’s National Enterprise Challenge, which is the UK’s largest enterprise education competition.

The aim is to create real life business challenges for students and 90 students from Year 7 took part.

“It was great to be involved with the young entrepreneurs who were all extremely enthusiastic about the projects they had been working on,” said Graham. “To see students developing their life skills and preparing for a future in the world of business was very inspiring, and I’m sure many of them will go far.”

This year’s challenge involved creating ideas for a game for KidZania London – an indoor city run by children and one of the main sponsors of the competition.

The winning team from Hadley Learning Community – I’m a kid get me out of here – will now go through to the local semi-finals, with the final taking place at The International Centre, Telford, in July.

Pic:Martin-Kaye’s Senior Partner Graham Davies (right) with students from the Hadley Learning Community at the National Enterprise Challenge event


Thursday, 19 April 2018

Cross border divorce is an issue

England could face a deluge of divorce cases from the other home nations if an estranged wife wins her current court case.

The wife and her aristocratic husband – who is a relative of the Duchess of Cornwall – are locked in a legal battle about whether arguments over their divorce settlement should be held in an English or Scottish court.

And now, family law expert Gemma Himsworth of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said if the wife wins, the case would set a precedent that could bring a huge increase in similar claims.

“The case involves Charles Villiers and his estranged wife, Emma, who lived for all but one year of their 17-year marriage in Scotland. They separated in 2012, and Mr Villiers filed for divorce in Scotland in 2014. But Mrs Villiers applied to the English courts three months later for financial maintenance of £10,000 a month.”

Mrs Himsworth said under Scottish law, inherited wealth is not taken into account when assets are divided, and maintenance payouts are generally limited to three years. “But here in England, a divorcee can secure financial support for the rest of her life from her former spouse.”

In 2016, the courts decided the English High Court could help Mrs Villiers because she was then “habitually resident” in England – they ruled Mr Villiers should pay her £5,500 a month to cover interim maintenance while the divorce is finalised and her legal bills.

“Now though, Mr Villiers is challenging the ruling and insisting that an English judge had no right to intervene in a Scottish divorce. The case is still ongoing but once it has been decided, if Mrs Villiers wins then England and Wales could see a real surge in similar cases from Scotland, and an increase in the arguments between spouses about which court should hear their dispute.

“Mr Villiers claims that his wife is ‘trying it on’ and that the courts should throw out her case.

“It remains to be seen who will win their claim, but it’s clear that the case could be a turning point in the way cross-border divorces are handled and the way that settlements are decided, so we will be watching closely to see how things develop.”

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Are networking events a data risk?

Most Shropshire businesses should by now be aware of the new data protection rules that will come into force in just a few weeks.

But how will the legislation affect any contact details you collect at networking events across the county?

Graham Davies, of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “It’s a tried and tested approach – you attend a networking meeting and automatically swap business cards with the other people you meet at the event.

“But under the new General Data Protection Regulation policy that takes effect on May 25th, surely you’re breaching the rules unless you inform your new contacts about how you’re planning to use the information?

“In fact, as you have exchanged personal data at a business event, it’s clear that both parties can reasonably expect their new contact will be in touch at a later date – otherwise why would you have handed over your business card?

“So in this situation, under GDPR you wouldn’t need to request permission to use the contact details, and you can rely on the fact your new contacts must have been interested in hearing from you by virtue of them giving you their details.”

Mr Davies said technically the new rules would require you to provide a full description of how you were planning to use the information, but common sense should be applied.

“If you’re hosting an exhibition stand at the networking event and collecting business cards from delegates, you’d be wise to display a statement that explains you may use the details later. If you don’t have a stand, maybe ask your new contact if they’d like to be included on your mailing list as they hand over their card – you need to make sure they realise that you may be in touch.

“Then when you first make contact following the event, ensure there’s a clear link to your privacy notice, and always remind your contacts that they have the right to opt out of any further marketing communications.

“The new GDPR rules are complicated and will apply to all businesses, regardless of their size or sector, but when it comes to face-to-face networking, there is room for more flexibility given the setting where it happens.”

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Tom takes on a new role at law firm

A Shropshire legal assistant has taken on a new role at a local law firm after impressing the management team with his hard work and dedication.

Tom Wickstead initially had a work experience placement at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Euston Way, Telford, while he was still at school.

And then, after leaving Bangor University with his law degree, he spent seven years working for the National Health Service, before returning to Martin-Kaye as a legal assistant in the domestic conveyancing team.

Now, he will be assisting one of the firm’s Partners, Andrew Oranjuik, and his colleague Sara Brumwell with civil litigation, professional negligence and commercial litigation cases. Tom will also be involved in debt recovery operations.

Mr Oranjuik said: “We have been extremely impressed with Tom’s commitment and his attitude, and we felt this new role was the perfect opportunity for him to build on his already strong skills and expand his knowledge of different areas of law.

“He will work closely with senior members of the team who are all keen to share their extensive experience with him, in order to help him develop his legal career and build a strong future in the industry.”

As well as his day-to-day duties, Tom is also studying at the University of Law in Chester for his LPC (Legal Practice Course), which is also known as the Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice – the final stage before becoming a qualified solicitor in England and Wales.

He said: “I’m very proud to have been offered this new role and I am thoroughly enjoying learning more about different areas of law. Everyone has been so supportive, and that has made the transition to a new team much less daunting than it could have been – it’s a great opportunity and I’m relishing the new challenge.”

Pic: Tom Wickstead who has taken on a new role at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford


Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Are your workers illegal?

Shropshire employers could be held personally responsible if they fail to check whether their staff have the right to work in the UK.

Employment law specialist, John Mehtam, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said 20 directors from 16 separate companies nationwide were disqualified in the last year for employing illegal workers.

“As well as a lengthy disqualification, the directors were also fined a total of £505,000, so it’s clear that turning a blind eye to the status of your employees is not a wise move.”

Mr Mehtam said no matter what size of company an employer may run, every director is legally required to ensure that the business is taking the necessary steps to prevent illegal working.

“Even if you’re a very small business, the legal requirement applies to all companies and all directors.”

He said directors should ask the prospective employee to provide the company with original documents showing they had permission to work in the UK, and then check the paperwork in their presence.

“You need to be sure that the documents are genuine, and that the person handing them over is the rightful owner – you should also check they confirm the person is allowed to do the type of work you have available.

“Double check too whether the paperwork says they have a permanent right to live and work in the UK, or whether it’s only a temporary permission. If it’s only temporary, you’ll need to carry out follow-up checks in the future.

“Take a copy of the original documents in a format which cannot be tampered with, and keep a record of the date the checks were made. You should never accept a copy of a document because it’s your responsibility to check it is valid, and if the document turns out to be fake, you’ll be held personally liable.”

Mr Mehtam said as well as disqualification, the maximum penalty for employing illegal workers due to inadequate employment practices is £20,000 per illegal worker.

“As long as you take precautionary steps to check the status of your employees, you should be able to defend yourself if an illegal worker is discovered on your payroll. Make sure you keep all the paperwork on file while the employee works for you, and for two years after their employment ends too.”