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How have competition law rules been relaxed in the light of the coronavirus outbreak?

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued a number of guidance documents about the application of competition law rules during the coronavirus outbreak. In general, the competition law rules are being relaxed in very specific circumstances.

Related FAQs

I don’t live in the same home as my child’s other parent. Can my child move between each house?

If you are separated from your child’s other parent, government guidance about self-isolation and social distancing may have an impact on the contact arrangements that are in place and give rise to disagreements about spending time with the other parent, travelling arrangements and whether the child should continue to go to school, where one of the parents is a key worker and a school place is available.

The government has issued guidance which makes it clear that where parents do not live in the same household, children under the age of 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.

Cafcass has also issued guidance which states that, “unless there are justified medical/self-isolation issues – or some future nationally issued guidance or expectation associated with leaving the house in your area – children should maintain their usual routine of spending time with each of their parents. If there is a Child Arrangements Order in place this should be complied with unless to do so would put your child, or others, at risk”.  The guidance from Cafcass be accessed here.  https://mcusercontent.com/2750134472ba930f1bc0fddcd/files/987e77d6-0827-470c-9447-acc61404f465/CAFCASS_Covid19_advice_for_familes_20.pdf

I have essential workers who do home visits. How do I assess the risks?

The fundamentals of risk assessment remain the same as for any other foreseeable risk.

Focus on risk controls which reflect Government guidance; social distancing (2 metres) and avoiding contact with occupiers if possible, high-quality PPE – disposable overalls, gloves and fluid repellent surgical face masks, ready access to antibacterial wipes for surfaces, tools and equipment and plentiful hand sanitizer.

Is it possible to apply for a grant of probate at the moment?

Yes. The system for Probate Applications has moved on-line and continues to be available as well as by post. However, if you need to complete an Inheritance Tax Return IHT400 you are likely to experience problems collating information due to delays in many organisations being able to provide you with current values while their offices are closed and staff working remotely. Property valuations will be particularly problematic where surveyors or valuers are unable to attend properties to undertake non-urgent work. If you cannot wait, you must use your best endeavours to be as accurate as possible as regards the information you provide in the IHT400 and follow up by providing HMRC with actual values as soon as you can do so. HM Courts and Tribunal Service is however warning that delays can be expected at this time.

I have trespassers occupying my land. Can I evict them?

On 18 April 2020, it was announced that an exception to the current stay in possession proceedings and ban on all evictions has been made to allow possession orders to be made against trespassers.

This means land owners can take action to remove unauthorised persons occupying their land. Trespassers include: squatters; travellers; failed successors of secure tenancies; and licensees whose licences have been terminated.

Further, the automatic stay to possession proceedings currently imposed no longer applies to applications for interim possession orders meaning any persons found to be “squatting” on land without permission may again be subject to an order requiring them to leave your premises within 24 hours of service of that order.

What guidance has the CMA issued about how it expects businesses to behave in response to the global pandemic?

On 30th April 2020, the CMA issued a guidance note setting out its views about how the law operates in relation to refunds.

Where a contract is not performed as agreed, the CMA considers that in most cases, consumer protection law will generally allow consumers to obtain a refund.

This includes the following situations:

  • Where a business has cancelled a contract without providing any of the promised goods or services
  • Where no service is provided by a business, for example because this is prevented by Government public health measures
  • A consumer cancels, or is prevented from receiving any services, because Government public health measures mean they are not allowed to use the services.

In the CMA’s view, this will usually apply even where the consumer has paid what the business says is a non-refundable deposit or advance payment.

This positon reflects the CMA’s previous guidance which they had issued in relation to the requirement of fairness in consumer contracts under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which was that a clause in a contract that gives a blanket entitlement to a trader to cancel a contract and retain deposits paid is likely to be unfair, and therefore unenforceable – it would be unfair to a consumer to lose their deposit if the contract is terminated without any fault on their part, and if they had received no benefit for the payments made.

The CMA’s latest guidance therefore confirms their view that the Covid-19 outbreak does not change the basic rights of the consumer, and that they should not have to pay for goods or services that they do not receive.