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World Consumer Rights Day 15th March 2015

Did you know? No, nor did I ’til recently and if it was news to me then hey there aren’t going to be many more people that know. How much press coverage is it getting? Not much? So far that I’ve seen not any, unless anyone would like to tell me differently?

Update – Which? sent a press release regarding healthy food in line with this year’s theme and the story was covered in the Daily Mail, Mirror and the Times but WCRD gets only a passing mention in the articles.

Background So where did this day come from? On 15 March 1962, President John F Kennedy gave an address to the US congress in which he formally addressed the issue of consumer rights. He was the first world leader to do so, and the consumer movement now marks 15 March every year as a means of raising global awareness about consumer rights. Hard to believe that a politician would be interested and support consumer rights huh? Yep, especially when you consider that this year the theme is healthy, affordable diets.

Healthy affordable diets Well let’s start with 1962 and John F Kennedy promoting consumer rights, internationally. Fast forward to 20teen years and the use of foodbanks (you may recall I challenged Iain Duncan Smith on these and he didn’t even know there was one in his own constituency). The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2013) GBD 2010 says that poor diets contribute to more than 11 million deaths annually and are now the number one global risk factor for death. Premature illness and disability from diet-related diseases impoverishes families, hurts productivity and bankrupts health systems.

To be fair, The Consumer Council in Northen Ireland is promoting the day  and is undertaking a survey to consumers’ thoughts on the affordability of a healthy, balanced diet. The results from this snapshot survey will inform research we’re undertaking in partnership with Food Standards Agency, Safefood, Ulster University and Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice. But can you find anything in England, Scotland or Wales? If so please can you comment below so that  can put in the link! In the meantime government agencies and the media can be shown up as wanting to do little help in this area!

Changes needed Reducing salt consumption Reducing sugar consumption  Nutrition labelling on pre-packaged foods  Healthy food in schools

What we can do Well given my ongoing relationship with Tesco perhaps I shall keep on about this to them as well!

For more information on WCRD and the theme please go to Consumers International

Consumer Rights generally A recent survey showed that fewer than 45% of people in the UK use their consumer rights. Only 7% said that they know their legal rights well  and use them regularly. 5% know the basics of the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 and Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.  But there are of course many other laws protecting consumers, including EU laws of which very people are aware.

To keep up to date with changes in consumer law (Consumer Bill coming late in the year, which amongst other things will replace the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 and Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982) and other consumer info sign up to the newsletter:

and of course if you need help in asserting your legal rights there are many tips here for complaining effectively and the up to date book on complaining effectively to always gain redress providing you with information, laws, advice, tips and templates can be found here.


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Court fees rise up to 600%

opinions on small claims court risesRises of up to 600% on court fees for claims over £10,000 to 5% of the value of the claim, capped at £10,000 for claims of £200,000 and over come into force today. Yesterday taking someone to court for £200,000 would have cost you £1,315. From today it will cost you £10,000. A value of £20,000 yesterday incurred a court fee of £610, but from today the fee will be £1,000. Claims from the Ministry of Justice say that the changes will bring in an estimated £120 million.

The justice minister, Shailesh Vara, said: “Our courts play a critical role and it is vital that the principle of access to justice is preserved by a properly funded service. It is only fair that wealthy businesses and individuals fighting legal battles should pay more in fees to ease the burden on taxpayers.

These rises come on top of the fees increase on 22nd April last year. There has to my knowledge not been any research as to whether the number of people going to the Small Claims Court has been affected by this rise, it has not even been a year and yet this change has been rushed through. It is ludicrous to say that wealthy businesses and individuals should pay more in legal battles! This government also reduced legal aid so how does a not “wealthy” individual go to court? Of course this new measure will put people off going to court and the wealthy individuals and businesses either ‘get away with it’ or employ top notch solicitors.

Should the claimant win then s/he can claim the fees back but with cases taking 6 months on average to get to court the rise could mean that court is out of reach for some people to take te risk. Those on low pay or benefits can get help with fees, but as well all know, it is those just above that threshold that get stung. And of course the small businesses.

Lord Faulks, who proposed the motion in the House of Lords said “’litigation is very much an optional activity’. “Tell that to the small business owner who goes under due to an individual or company not paying a debt. Tell that to the individual who can’t get their insurance company to pay up for an accident.

Absolutely typical of this government bringing in changes to  penalise the non wealthy people in society. Getting one more  austerity measure through that it thought wouldn’t really bother the majority. But for the few it does affect it will bother them greatly.The Law Society asked to see the raw data and evidence used by the government to formulate its decision. I don’t think it was forthcoming. It challenged the changes and sadly failed.