Category Archives: Regulation

Clegg Calls for Journalists to get Public Interest Defence

Newspapers

According to Nick Clegg, journalists should be afforded a defence if they break the law in the course of pursuing information that is in the public interest. The Lib Dem leader suggested that journalists should be able to break some data protection, computer misuse and bribery laws in the pursuit of such information without fear of prosecution.

Clegg’s comments follow concerns about the way police have pursued those who provide information to journalists, which have led these areas of legislation to come under scrutiny. In order to pursue sources, police have been controversially gaining access to the phone records of journalists.

Clegg was speaking at his monthly press conference, ahead of an upcoming House of Lords debate where this kind of law will be proposed. The proposals will take the form of amendments to the crime and criminal justice bill.

Clegg suggested that “You probably need to put [the public interest defence] in the Data Protection Act, the Bribery Act, maybe one or two other laws as well, where you enshrine a public interest defence for you, for the press. So that where you are going after information and you’re being challenged, you can set out a public interest defence to do so.” The amendments tabled in the upcoming debate will propose the introduction of such a defence to both of these acts along with the Computer Misuse Act.

Sources within the Lib Dem party suggest express the opinion that the amendments may not be pushed to a vote, and that there was a good chance of reaching an agreement with the conservatives “in the not too distant future” that could see government proposals put forward. The official spokesman for the Prime Minister, when asked about the matter, said the government would look into matters thrown up as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) comes under review.

Separately from these claims, Clegg has also expressed support for the review if RIPA, and the possibility of greater protection for journalists whose records may be accessed by police. Clegg said on the matter that it is “incredibly important in a free society that journalists should be able to go after information where there’s a clear public interest to do so, without fear of being snooped upon or having all of their files kind of rifled through without clear justification.”

A separate proposed amendment to Section 55 of the Data Protection Act would see the sentence for accessing personal data unlawfully increased. Where currently the maximum penalty is a fine, this amendment would see the possibility of probation and community service. In more serious cases, it would also introduce the prospect of up to two years’ imprisonment.

EU Legislation for British Firms Increasing

Legislation

Campaign group Business for Britain have released figures which, for some, have raised concerns about the rate of increase in EU legislation. According to the newly published data, the number of new business regulations sanctioned at EU level in the past three years is just short of 3,600.

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular have expressed concern about their growth being hindered by large amounts of legislation that just does not seem necessary. This fact seems particularly pertinent in light of David Cameron’s stance on the role of small businesses in the British business environment. The Prime Minister has describe SMEs as holding a central role in the country’s economy, and has openly expressed a desire to make expansion easier for new startups.

These new regulations, introduced in the period since May 2010, equate to a combined total of 13 million extra words added to the legal bureaucracy surrounding British business. Reading the legislation from start to finish would take companies an estimated 92 working days.

Business for Britain’s Chief Executive, Matthew Elliot, said that the issue needs to be addressed urgently. He described the EU as having “an addiction to red tape.”

Elliot went on to say that the fact regulation is needed for a single market to function properly is undeniable. However, he said that the amount of new legislation being sanctioned, and the rate at which new rules are added, “is a serious restraint to British Business.”

Jo Swinson, Business Minister, recently made an announcement detailing a number of proposed reforms to the legal environment surrounding UK businesses. These changes, it is claimed could positively impact upon the situation of an estimated 3.2 million companies across the UK.

She said that the main purpose of these reforms is to get rid of unnecessary obstacles within the administrative process. This is intended to allow SMEs to spend less time and effort on paperwork, and instead focus on expanding their operations and creating innovative new ideas. Ms Swinson suggested that this would contribute to the development of a stronger British economy.

A panel of leading businesses – commissioned by the government and including major firms such as Marks & Spencer – has also recently revealed findings in the area of unnecessary EU business regulation. The panel identified 30 specific EU-sanctioned regulations which they believe should be discarded, in order to create an easier environment for British businesses.

MOJ to Name and Shame Rogue PPI Claims Firms

MOJ

Claims management regulator, The Ministry of Justice (MOJ), has recently confirmed that it plans to name and shame rogue PPI claims companies on their website allowing consumers to see exactly what rules have been broken and by whom, and the reason that action has been taken.

Head of Claims Management Regulation Kevin Rousell said: “Consumers can sometimes unknowingly sign-up to a CMC that may be under investigation by my Unit… By creating an online list that names CMCs that are being investigated it will ensure consumers know exactly what action is being taken and the reason for it. It will also give consumers peace of mind that their complaints are being acted upon”.

The move, brought about by the increasing number of complaints against PPI claims firms has been welcomed by leading claims management compnay, Mis Sold PPI Claims Co, which have stated that “We welcome these changes as they will give consumers better protection against rogue CMC’s who are making it increasingly difficult for legitimate firms to work in this sector”.

We think this move long overdue, as many other regulatory bodies such as the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA), and the Health Professions Council (HPC) already have similar processes in place. The idea of making public any disciplinary proceedings and actions currently affecting licensed Claims Management Companies should send a clear message of intent to CMC’s that the MOJ will not tolerate firm that flout or break the rules.

The MOJ has already banned over 100 PPI claim firms and warned a further 149 to clean up their act. Last year, more than 10,000 complaints were made to the regulator, which found that the main reasons for consumer complaints were misleading marketing, high-pressure sales techniques, poor complaints systems and unclear fees.

As part of an industry wide crackdown, the MOJ is also looking to ban advertisements that offer cash incentives to vulnerable individuals for signing up to use their services, as well as new conduct rules that will put an end to all verbal contract arrangements between consumers and CMCs thereby enforcing written contracts before any fee can be taken.