What can you do if you are not happy with something you have purchased?

By Graham Peacham (Student)

What can you do if something you bought is not fit for purpose? Let’s find out…

The law gives you the right to reject and return items bought in certain circumstances, but  what does the Consumer Rights Act 2015 say?

Items, also known as goods, supplied to any consumer must be of satisfactory quality, this includes that they:

  • Meet the description provided.
  • Are fit to be used for purpose that was described.
  • Have a satisfactory appearance.
  • Are safe for use.
  • Are well made and durable.

How do you know if this applies to what you have purchased?

  •  ‘“Goods” is any merchandise or possessions being sold includes tangible moveable items, but can also includes water, gas and electricity.

What should you do if you are not happy with the goods you purchased?

If you are unhappy with the quality of your purchase, then you should contact the trader i.e. the person selling the goods. The sooner you contact them the better.

  • In the first 30 days you have the right to turn goods down and ask for a full refund. If some or all the original payment was made with money, you are entitled to ask for the money back. In some scenarios you may be given store vouchers or in store credit, you can refuse , if you would prefer your money back.
  • After 30 days you may ask the retailer to replace or repair the goods you bought, however at this point you will not be entitled to a refund.

If you bought from a private individual, it will be difficult to enforce your rights providing the goods were accurately described.

When does the time limit begin?

According to section 22 of the Consumer Rights Act, the time limit begins when:

  • Ownership has been transferred to the consumer,
  • Goods have been delivered and,
  • Where a contract requires a trader to take some other action such as instalment for the consumer to use the goods, the trader has notified them that this is complete.

What if you bought something online?

  • Thanks to the Consumer Contracts Regulations, you have even more rights as a consumer when purchasing online.
  • This regulation gives you the right to cancel an order 14 days after receiving the goods and beginning from the moment you paid.
  • If on an online order you purchase multiple orders, your time limit will start from the purchase and end 14 days after you have received the whole order.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) provides free legal advice on consumer matters. If you would like to arrange an appointment with us, please contact us at:

Email: sulac@staffs.ac.uk

Telephone: 01782 294800

Discrimination in the Workplace.

By Subhaan Nadeem (Student)

Recognising the value of diversity and promoting inclusivity not only benefits a company but it also enhances the well-being of its employees. However, sometimes employees, job applicants and others are affected by discrimination or discriminative practices.

The law provides protection in the workplace under the Equality Act 2010.

This protects people from being unfairly treated on the ground of things such as their:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

A case of discrimination can involve several different patterns of behaviour. Both being excluded or suffering from harassment based on a certain characteristic would be considered discrimination. Things that classify as discrimination can be wide ranging, from inappropriate humour to a harassment campaign. Discrimination can also occur indirectly. This is where someone treats all their employees in the same way, but this discriminates about certain groups.

Discriminatory policies may be formal or informal, including one off decisions, long term plans and rules which have been decided but are still to be implemented.

If you feel like you may have been unfairly treated or discriminated against in the workplace, Staffordshire University legal advice clinic (SULAC) provide you with free advice.

If you would like to arrange a meeting, please call us on 01782 294800 or email sulac@staffs.ac.uk.

                                                   Journey through Divorce  

Sameena Azmi (Student)

Divorce is the legal procedure that officially ends a marriage. It involves a sequence of legal procedures to resolve different parts of the marriage, such as the distribution of property, financial assistance for a former spouse, child contact arrangements and other relevant concerns.  Although divorce involves emotional and relational factors, it is primarily a legal procedure that is supervised by the court system where needed.  

There may be various reasons for couples getting a divorce. In England and Wales there is now a process of “no fault divorces”  which means that neither party needs to  show that the other  did anything wrong.  

  • The divorce process generally involves multiple  stages, however negotiation and mediation is encouraged throughout the process. Parties may engage in negotiation or mediation in order to achieve agreement on a range of matters. Mediation comprises the involvement of an impartial third person who assists in enabling discussions between the spouses with the aim of reaching an agreement. 
  • The first step in applying for a divorce is filing a petition which can be done online, along with paying the relevant fee. One spouse submits a formal request for divorce but this can also be done jointly
  •  The divorce paper is sent to the other spouse giving them 14 days to reply. As there is no longer fault in the divorce system, to dispute the divorce there must be a legal reason, it is not possible to dispute a divorce because one party does not want to divorce
  • Before finalising a divorce, an agreement about how to divide finances needs to take place which involve, both sides participating in exchanging information about their finances and property.
  • If a resolution cannot be achieved through the process of negotiation or mediation, the matter may be escalated to a hearing for a judge to decide the outcome. 
  • Once all issues are resolved, a final order can be applied for. This document serves as the legal ending of the marriage.

Going through a divorce can feel complicated and is often an emotional experience. 

If you are considering a divorce or going through the divorce process, you may benefit from legal advice and support.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic can assist and advise on this process. If you would like an appointment, please contact 01782 294800 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk.

Disputes about a person’s estate on their death: A guide to contentious probate

Image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay

Amy Barlow (Student)

When someone passes away, what they leave behind forms their estate, made up of property and assets (their possessions). Usually, their estate is dealt with in accordance with their will. Once the representatives of the estate (known as the executors) have received the necessary formal documentation, the estate assets can be shared out in accordance with the deceased’s will. This is the probate process.

Contentious probate (also known as “contested probate”) refers to any dispute that arises during this process, when the validity of a will or the distribution of an estate is questioned. This can be a difficult process for those affected and often requires legal advice.

Disputes can arise for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to:

● Disagreements regarding appointment and actions of the executor of the will

● Lifetime gifts and promises

● Feeling as though you deserve more than you have received (which is common among dependants of the deceased – especially those financially dependent on them)

● Suspecting that the will was made under duress or without proper legal formalities

● Mistakes and other disagreements, for example, mis-valuation of property or ownership

In cases of intestacy, when someone dies without leaving a will, the law sets out who should inherit their assets. This can also lead to disputes and leave family members and those close to the deceased with lots of unanswered questions.

These types of challenges can be raised before or after the distribution of the deceased’s assets but it is beneficial to seek advice as soon as possible. Generally, action is quicker, less costly and, more importantly, is more likely to allow assets to get to where they should be when advice is taken before the assets are distributed and possibly lost.

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) provides free legal advice on probate matters. If you would like to arrange an appointment with us, please contact:

Email: Sulac@staffs.ac.uk

Telephone: 01782 294800

Access to Children

Ryan Zwetschnikow (Student)

If you have children with an ex-partner then it is possible that you may not be able to reach an agreement about who the children live with and how often the children see the non-resident partner. If this happens then you may need to apply for a child arrangement order.

What is a child arrangement order?

A Child Arrangement Order (CAO) is a legally binding court order which stipulates the arrangements surrounding the child. A CAO stipulates who the child is to primarily live with and how much time the child will spend with each parent. Equally, a CAO could state that the child’s time is to be spent equally between both parents.  A CAO usually lasts until the child reaches 16 years of age. However, in certain circumstances, this can be extended until the child reaches 18 years of age. The welfare of the child are paramount when the court makes a CAO. If separated parents resume their relationship and return to sharing the same residence, the CAO will expire after six months. A CAO is not necessarily set in stone, it may be varied in the future.

Who can apply for a CAO?

Parents named on the birth certificate may apply for a CAO, as well as stepparents, guardians, and anyone else who has parental responsibility over the child. Any person seeking a CAO over a child that does not have parental responsibility, will require the court’s permission before beginning the application process.

What is the process?

Before court proceedings can begin all parties must attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). The aim of an MIAM is to encourage the parties to reach an agreement without initiating court proceedings. There are certain circumstances where MIAMs are not compulsory, such as where one party has been subject to domestic violence from the other party. Even if this is the case, however, mediators may still be able to help as they should be able to conduct the process without the parties being in the same room or even remotely, via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. To begin court proceedings the parties must complete a C100 court form. The C100 form and a sum of £232 will need to be paid to the court. At each part of the process, the court will push for an agreement to be made between the parties. Any agreement made by the parties, during proceedings will be implemented by the court. This agreement will become legally binding.

The first hearing is called a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA). This hearing aims to outline the issues which are disputed by the parties. Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Staff (CAFCASS) attend FHDRA hearings. CAFCASS officers are concerned with the welfare of the child at the centre of the proceedings. Providing the court has directed CAFCASS to produce a report a Dispute Resolution Hearing (DRH) will be scheduled. This report will aid the court making an order which is in the best interests of the child. This hearing will allow each party to present evidence to the court. A final hearing will be scheduled if an agreement cannot be reached at a DRH. At a final hearing, both parties will be able to give oral evidence, which can be questioned by the opposing party. This is subject to exceptions, such as prior domestic violence between the parties. If an agreement cannot be made, the judge implements an appropriate CAO, reflecting the child’s best interests.

 Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic can assist and advise on this process. If you would like an appointment, please contact 01782 294800 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk to arrange an appointment.

Disputes Over Jointly Owned Property

Aaron Kainth (Student)

Sometimes owning a property jointly can lead to problems. It may be the case that a relationship has broken down with a partner, friend or family member and circumstances have changed meaning that one party may want to sell their share in the property, but the other party doesn’t.

One option may be for one party to buy out the other’s share. Before selling a share in a property it is fundamental that a valuation is obtained which will enable you to calculate your share of equity in the property to allow you to agree a fair price. If this is agreed, then the person that does not want to sell could have the property transferred into their sole name.

It may be the case that the other party will not cooperate with you.  It would be advisable to communicate with them and try to see if a mutual agreement can be reached regarding the shares in the property before proceeding further.

If you cannot reach an agreement, one option to consider is mediation, which involves an external party (known as a mediator) who meets with both parties and attempts to negotiate a settlement which both parties are happy with.

If the opposing party still fails to cooperate with you and mediation is not an option (or successful) then you can make an application to the court seeking an order for the property to be sold. This application would be made using the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA).

Staffordshire University Legal Advice Clinic (SULAC) offers free legal advice in respect of property disputes. You can either email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk or call 01782 294800 to book an appointment.

Private renters fearful of section 21 eviction notices

Izaz Riaz (Student)

Recent Government statistics show that 5,940 households were served with a section 21 (‘no fault’) eviction notice between April and June 2022. Since the end of the eviction ban in May 2021, there has been a 76% increase in section 21 eviction notices being served. And in 2022 it was found that 25% of households (17,530) in the UK were homeless or becoming homeless due to being served with ‘no fault eviction’ proceedings. It is the second leading reason for homelessness in the UK.

In 2021 YouGov revealed that 39% of private renters (3.2 million people) are living in unhospitable living conditions. This is because tenants are fearful of contacting their landlords regarding repairs due to the retaliation they may receive from their landlord by being served with a section 21 (‘no fault’) eviction notice.

Landlords have a duty to their tenants to ensure that the property is in a habitable condition. The types of repairs landlords are required to cover are:

  • the structure of the property, for example walls, roof, windows and doors
  • sinks, baths, toilets
  • pipes and wiring
  • heating and hot water, e.g. the boiler
  • the safety of gas and electrical appliances

Once a tenant has reported a problem with their rented accommodation landlords must make the repairs in a reasonable amount of time. What constitutes a reasonable amount of time depends on the level of seriousness of the issue. For example, a broken boiler should be fixed sooner than a leaking tap.

If your landlord refuses to make repairs or takes too long to make repairs, you have the right to report your landlord to your local council’s Environmental Health department. The Environmental department has the authority to force your landlord to make repairs and prevent your landlord from serving you a section 21 notice.

There are proposals to change the law to remove the S21 no fault evictions but currently they remain

Here at SULAC we can assist with housing issues. If you need an appointment please call 01782 294800 or email sulac@staffs.ac.uk

The Success of Family Mediation Vouchers

The Success of Family Mediation Vouchers.

Wayne Cartlidge (Student)

In March 2021 the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) introduced a new scheme in the UK, which was designed to try and help families whose cases would usually end up in court, to work together and ensure that the case did not go to court.

The trial scheme using ‘mediation vouchers’ was introduced to try and minimise the number of family disputes that end up going to court.  Following the trial period, the Ministry of justice have hailed the trial a success and have further announced that they will make a decision to see if the scheme is to continue ‘in the very near future’.

Since March 2021, the MoJ have revealed that the vouchers have been used by and supported more than 13,500 families.  From this number, the MoJ revealed that in two-thirds of those cases a whole or partial agreement was reached away from the court room.

Families who used the scheme were entitled to apply for a £500 voucher towards the cost of the mediation sessions. 

During the sessions, the parties would attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) with a trained mediator.  Following the initial meeting, the mediator provides an assessment on whether or not they believe that the family’s case would be eligible and suitable for mediation.  If the mediator decides that the case would be suitable, it would be the mediator who applies for the voucher, and this is then paid directly to the mediator once the mediation sessions have finished.

Prior to this scheme, government data showed that referrals for mediation had dropped after the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) came into force.  According to the MoJ latest statistical report, MIAM’s currently stand at around a third of pre-LASPO levels, with family mediation starts being around half of pre-LASPO levels.

Here at SULAC we can advise on family matters and have close links with local mediators. If you would like an appointment please call 01782 294800 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk

What rights do victims of defective products have?

warranty problem concept with torn wire

What rights do victims of defective products have?

Joanne Bennett (Student)

The Consumer Protection Act 1987 gives rights to victims of defective products, enabling them to bring a claim in a civil court. A claim can be brought by anyone injured by a defective product (not just the person who purchased the product). The claim should be brought against the producer of the product (this is usually the manufacturer).

The person who brings the claim (the Claimant) must prove on the balance of probabilities (more likely than not) that a defect in the product (wholly or partly) caused the damage. A defect could be a manufacturing fault, a design problem, or a lack of safety information. The Claimant does not need to show that the producer was at fault.

The product is considered defective if the safety of the product is not such as ‘persons generally are entitled to expect’. When considering what ‘persons generally are entitled to expect’, the following factors are taken into account:

  • How and why the product was marketed (for example, whether it was marketed to a specific category of people such as children)
  • Any warnings and instructions provided relating to how the product should be used (do the benefits of the product outweigh any risks provided for in the warning information?)
  • What might this product reasonably have been expected to be used for? Was the product used for something outside of this expectation?
  • When was the product supplied? (Was this considered a risk for this type of product at the time it was produced?)

If the product was not of a standard that ‘persons generally were entitled to expect’, then the producer may be liable for damage caused by the defective product.

Damage is defined as death or personal injury, or any loss of or damage to property. Injury includes any disease or other impairment of a person’s physical or mental condition, including harm to an unborn baby. Damages can be claimed for pain, suffering or loss of amenity.

Claims must exceed £275 and are limited to property (including land) which is primarily used for personal use. No claim can be brought ten or more years after the product was put into circulation, and claims cannot be brought for damage to the defective product itself.

The producer cannot avoid liability for such damage by using clauses which attempt to exclude or limit their liability.

Here at SULAC, we offer free legal advice for all consumer matters. If you would like an appointment, please call 01782 294800 or email SULAC@Staffs.ac.uk.

Parental Alienation

Parental Alienation
Bruna Lopes (Student)

The definition for parental alienation as stated by Cafcass is” When a child’s resistance / hostility towards one parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation by the other parent.” This definition has received recent approval from the Court of Appeal in Re S (Parental Alienation: Cult) [2020] EWCA Civ 568, [2020] 2 FLR 263, who added to it that the manipulation of the child need not be malicious or even deliberate. It is the process that matters, and not the motive, though the alienating parent’s motive is important and can inform the court’s decision.”

While parental alienation cases are difficult to identify and present a hard job for legal practitioners, professionals have identified signs that alienation is taking place. It is almost fundamental to act on cases of parental alienation very early on, if not irreversible damages could be done to the alienated parent’s relationship with the child. Consequently, both the child and the alienated parent’s well-being are compromised.

 If you fear you are becoming the alienated parents, there are some signs you can look for. If your child is unjustifiably and constantly criticizing you, it could mean you are being alienated. Usually, the child will have no specific examples of things you have done wrong and/or said, and mostly no justification for the criticism or the child could start presenting false or illogical reasoning. Your child, when asked, can make claims that their criticisms are their own based on their own opinion. The reality is that the alienating parent may have encouraged the child to behave and think this way. Another sign to look out for is if the child starts using terms and phrases that only come from adults. Often children will bring up events that happened before they were even born, or simply create a fictional story. If your child’s feelings towards you are all or most of them are negative, it could mean you are being alienated.

Signs that your ex-partner is alienating you:

  • One parent makes efforts to have excessive contact with the child, especially during the other parents bonding time.
  • One parent is suggesting to the child that the other does not possess feelings for them, they might suggest to the child that the other parents does not love or care for them.
  • One parent is deliberately making unfound allegations against the other parent. These allegations can extend to the child and others.
  • One parent is portraying the other to the child in a hurtful, degrading, and negative way.

If you recognise these signs early there is a greater chance of reversing the effects of the influence of the other parent on your child. Firstly, it is important to understand that the priority in these cases is the safety and well-being of the child. The longer your child is exposed to the bad influence, the longer it will take to reverse the effects. 

If you think you are being alienated and you would like to start court proceedings, you should start by finding the right professionals for your case. Under section 7 of the Children Act 1989, performance reports can only be released after a fact-finding hearing. Without fact-finding hearings, those who may be called upon to make recommendations to the court on child welfare issues, whether they be Cafcass officers, independent social workers, or guardians, are doing their work without a factual basis. Serious accusations against parents are a classic case of parental alienation, and it is common for children to say loudly that they do not want to see the accused parent. It is difficult for personal protection professionals to draw any conclusions without properly evaluating the veracity or otherwise of these claims. In addition to the S.7 report, other reports are also helpful. It may also require psychotherapy and intervention for the parent and/or child.

Fact Finding Hearing

The first step you should take is to seek for an early fact-finding hearing.Before entering any court proceedings, it is important to prove the allegations are untrue. While there is still no official regulation for parent alienation in the United Kingdom, family courts will step in if your child’s safety and well-being is under threat. That being said, the assumption from courts is always that the child having contact with both parents is aways the best option. Legal practitioners consider the merits of mediation or collaborative practice to resolve the issue of parental alienation. This is a less formal, non-adversarial process that can help to reduce the impact of parental alienation on the child. It can also help to rebuild the relationship between the parents and the child and can be an effective way to resolve the problem without resorting to a court battle.

Court proceedings

If you think mediation is not a viable option for you then there are legal options you can take. It is advised you seek legal advice as quickly as you can. You could apply for a child arrangements order. This application will allow you to spend time with your child and/or they can live with you.

If the circumstances are more serious, you apply for a prohibited steps order. You can apply for a prohibited steps order if you believe your co-parents is capable or is trying of moving away with your child without you knowing; change your child’s name or make other personal changes like the school they frequent, without your knowledge. Cafcass workers will supervise contact and meetings with both parents, and more fundamentally they will speak to the child and asses their wishes and needs. If necessary, a psychological analysis can also be conducted.

In all cases of parental alienation, where any situation where a parent is estranged, assessing the child’s needs and securing their safety, it number one priority. Of course, There are clearly difficulties in dealing with the desires and feelings of children in alienation cases. The views expressed by the child, no matter how strong they may seem, could be those of the alienating parent, not the child. The list in section 1 of the Children Act 1989 requires courts to consider not children expressed wishes, but their identifiable wishes and feelings, considering their age and understanding. Simply reporting what a child says without examining how and why he said it has been described as superficial and naïve.. Courts can rely heavily on close observation by commissioned experts who will be able to guide children’s responses and better understand their backgrounds. The court has a duty to keep in active contact during and after proceedings. Courts review evidence not to determine who is “culprit,” but to determine how best to ensure the best interests of the child; the child’s welfare comes first. In reaching conclusions about the parents’ conduct, the court first engages in arguments with the parents, trying to persuade them to choose the right path for their children; it only orders when it is best not to order. If an order is required, the court can change the child’s situation to allow the child to be transferred from one parent to the other, and cases in recent years have increasingly shown that courts are willing to do so.

It has been stated that the court will always assume that the best-case scenario for a child is to have both parents present in a healthy relationship. However, when cases do not have the conditions to fulfil the requirements to have both parents present in the child life, and one of the parents is not willing to cooperate, problems arise. Nevertheless, if visitation preparations aren’t met, a dormant order requiring the child to transport to the estranged parent may suffice and attain the favoured ending and resumption of the connection with the estranged parent. Likewise, contact orders with intense and serious consequences for violations may be successful.

Here at SULAC we can help with Child Arrangement Orders. If you would like an appointment please call 01782 294800 or email SULAC@staffs.ac.uk.