I hold a licence but can’t trade. Can I terminate it?
A licence to occupy premises is not an interest land and operates as a commercial contract between the parties that enter into it. Licences tend to be put in place to cover short periods and consequently they are generally a lot more flexible than commercial leasing arrangements. To that extent occupants under licences should review the contract to establish whether or not there are any provision allowing them to terminate on notice to the Licensor.
Occupants under licences that are granted for longer periods without the option to terminate may try to argue that the contract has frustrated because they are effectively unable to occupy.
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.
There are two stages:
- Stage 1 – The provision of written information to the representatives.
- Stage 2 – Consultation on the proposed redundancies “with a view to reaching agreement” about certain matters
Stage 1: Provision of information
The first stage in the collective consultation process is to provide the representatives with written information including details of the proposed redundancies (often called a section 188 letter). This information must be given to the appropriate representatives and the time limit before dismissals can take effect does not start to run until they have received it. It is this information which ‘starts the clock’.
It is possible that there will be changes to the proposals during the consultation process: indeed that is part of the reason for the process. The employer’s obligation is not just to provide the appropriate representatives with the relevant information at the start of the process. It is under a continuing obligation to provide them with information in writing about any developments during the consultation process (although later changes do not ‘restart the clock’ before dismissals can take effect).
Stage 2: Consultation on the proposed redundancies “with a view to reaching agreement” about certain matters
The consultation process must include consultation “with a view to reaching agreement with the appropriate representatives” on ways of:
- Avoiding the dismissals
- Reducing the number of employees to be dismissed
- Mitigating the consequences of the dismissals
The Chief Coroner adopts the approach taken by the Lord Chief Justice in that no physical hearing should take place unless it is urgent and essential business, and it is safe for all involved. If a hearing is to take place, social distancing must be maintained. All hearings that can take place remotely should do so, if it is not possible for social distancing requirements to be met. The expectation is that some hearings will go ahead, most notably Rule 23 hearings. Coroners are reminded that they must however conduct any remote hearings from a court. Decisions as to the most appropriate approach will be left to the senior coroner in that jurisdiction.
As we have already seen, some inquests will be adjourned, most notably those with multiple witnesses and/or a jury.
The guidance stresses the need, when dealing with medical professionals, for coroners to recognise their primary clinical commitments, particularly in these high-pressured times. This could mean avoiding or deferring requests for lengthy reports/ statements and accommodating clinical commitments if clinicians are called as witnesses.
The guidance encourages proactive reviews of outstanding responses to Prevention of Future Death reports and extending timescales for Trusts to respond.
With the exception of the Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (see below), there was initially little dedicated financial assistance for medium-sized and larger businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak (the so-called “stranded middle”); however, from 20 April 2020 such businesses (with a turnover above £45 million) have been able to access finance via the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (“CLBILS“).
CLBILS operates in a similar manner to CBILS except that a lender can provide:
- up to £25 million to businesses with turnover from £45 million up to £250 million; and
- up to £50 million to businesses for those with a turnover of over £250 million.
Finance is available in the form of:
- term loans
- revolving credit facilities (including overdrafts)
- invoice finance and
- asset finance,
in each case available on repayment terms of up to three years.
Several changes to CLBILS took effect from 26 May 2020. The maximum amount available through CLBILS to a borrower and its group increased from £50m to £200m. Term loans and revolving credit facilities over £50m will be offered by CLBILS lenders which have secured additional accreditation. The maximum size for invoice finance and asset finance facilities remains at £50m. Companies borrowing more than £50m through CLBILS will be subject to further restrictions on dividend payments, senior pay and share buy-backs during the period of the loan. Further information on the most recent changes, including new provisions on seniority of CLBILS facilities, can be found on the CLBILS page on the British Business Bank website. There is also an in-depth FAQs section for businesses, which has the full details of the changes to the scheme.
Unlike CBILS, the UK government will not make payments to cover the interest and any lender-levied fees in the first 12 months of any facility so these larger businesses will not benefit from the no upfront costs and lower initial repayments that smaller businesses eligible for CBILS benefit from. The other key provisions of CLBILS, such as the eligibility criteria, the 80% government-backed guarantee and security, are similar to those of CBILS.
Eligibility is similar to CBILS and businesses must:
- Be UK-based in its business activity
- Have an annual turnover of more than £45 million
- Have a borrowing proposal which the lender would consider viable, were it not for the current pandemic, and for which the lender believes the provision of finance will enable the business to trade out of any short-term to medium-term difficulty
- Self-certify that it has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Not have received a facility under the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility.
Businesses from any sector can apply, except the following:
- Credit institutions (falling within the remit of the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive), insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
- Building Societies
- Public-sector bodies
- Further-education establishments, if they are grant-funded
- State-funded primary and secondary schools
All lending decisions remain fully delegated to the accredited lenders.
The vast majority of disputes settle without ever reaching a final hearing with something in the region of 2-5% of all cases actually ending up in court at a final trial. So whilst it is very unlikely you would need to attend a court hearing, it is always a possibility.