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Europcar chooses the law that suits it best to refuse a refund | Money

In June I booked a hire car with Europcar for a week’s holiday in France. I paid a higher rate which allowed me to cancel for a cash refund and phoned to confirm that this was what I was entitled to. However, when the government advised against travel to France, Europcar told me that under French law it was allowed to issue a credit note instead of a refund. It claimed that since the car was booked in France my contract was with its French counterpart, despite the fact the payment was taken in sterling and Europcar’s address on my credit card statement given as Watford. I think Europcar is choosing the law that suits it best.
JA, London

You have good reason to think that. I began by asking Europcar why customers who need to cancel a booking by phone are directed to a number that costs up to 75p a minute from a mobile. Premium rate numbers are banned for after-sales service.

Europcar replied that it does not consider a contract is formed until a customer collects their rental vehicle. That argument does not stop it holding that same customer to its terms and conditions as soon as they make – and pay for – a booking.

As for those terms and conditions – your booking confirmation indisputably states that Europcar provides free cancellation up to 48 hours before pick up. The terms and conditions on its website state the same. Nowhere does it warn that its policy may vary depending on where you hire a vehicle.

“Europcar has investigated this case and found that whilst it operated within the law and its own terms and conditions, it appreciates that the current process for cancelled bookings made for France may not have been made clear at the reservation stage and on the UK website,” it says. “Therefore a refund for the cancelled booking has been processed and the company’s apologies extended to the customer.”

It says it is reviewing the wording on its website. Customers are not bound by terms and conditions which are unclear or a figment of the trader’s imagination. Anyone else affected by Europcar’s concerning approach to small print can make a claim through their credit card issuer or the small claims court.

If you need help email Anna Tims at [email protected] Include an address and phone number. Submission and publication are subject to our terms and conditions

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Big Tobacco goes big in effort to quash law banning sales of flavored tobacco products

A coalition of big tobacco companies and small retailers is paying professional signature gatherers upward of $10 a name in an attempt put the brakes on the statewide law barring brick-and-mortar stores from selling menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products.



Suresh Raina standing in front of a store: Employee Majid Abbas (left) helps a customer buy flavored tobacco at City Smoke and Vape Shop in San Francisco in 2017.


© Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle 2017

Employee Majid Abbas (left) helps a customer buy flavored tobacco at City Smoke and Vape Shop in San Francisco in 2017.


With the Nov. 30 deadline approaching for submitting signatures to qualify the measure for the 2022 ballot, the high-dollar effort has become an interesting blend of California politics and potentially huge business profits, with a dash of coronavirus shutdown tossed in for good measure.

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At issue: SB793, authored by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in August. Stores that break the ban on selling flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes would face a $250 fine per violation.

Tobacco interests wasted no time filing the paperwork to put the law before voters in a referendum. They need 623,212 validated signatures to make the ballot.

“The law goes too far and is unfair. Particularly since lawmakers exempted hookah, expensive cigars and flavored pipe tobacco,” said Beth Miller, spokeswoman for the California Coalition for Fairness, the group seeking to repeal the ban.

“It will hurt small businesses and take jobs from licensed retailers who do sell tobacco products,” while still allowing for online sales, Miller said. “If the past is any indication, it will also lead to an underground market that could increase the access for minors.”

Hill dismissed the pro-tobacco arguments as a smokescreen.

“The goal is to keep kids from starting to smoke,” Hill said. “What 15-year-old is going to buy a $12.50 cigar or pipe tobacco? That’s ridiculous.”

Hill said the coalition had another reason for launching the referendum — profit.

If the referendum qualifies, the law, which is slated to go into effect in January, would be suspended until voters have their say in the November 2022 general election. And no matter what the outcome of the vote, the tobacco industry and retailers would get two more years of in-store sales until after the election.

Getting the signatures of the required registered voters by the November deadline, however, is not coming cheap.

The Coalition for Fairness estimates that it will need about 900,000 signatures to ensure it has enough verified signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Like most groups that place initiatives on the ballot, the Coalition for Fairness is using professional signature gatherers, those people you see carrying clipboards with petitions hawking various ballot measures outside of stores, farmers’ markets and other places people gather — or used to gather before the pandemic.

But getting people to stop and sign a petition is not easy these days. And with a pressing deadline, the price per signature has gone from $3 to $4 to as high as $10 per name. Miller said she did not have the exact figure, but

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Society condemns ‘special tax on legal profession’ | News

Government plans for a levy to fund the fight against financial crime amount to a ‘special tax on the legal profession’, the Law Society said today. In a strongly-worded response to a consultation on the economic crime levy announced by the chancellor earlier this year, Chancery Lane said any levy based on income would be especially harmful to the profession.

‘The legal profession is fully committed to supporting the fight against economic crime and takes anti-money laundering responsibilities very seriously,’ outgoing Law Society president Simon Davis said. ‘Law firms already play an important role in tackling money laundering, as demonstrated by the substantial costs and resources allocated by the profession to comply with its anti-money laundering (AML) and financial crime obligations.’

He noted that further increasing the cost of doing business would hit the international competitiveness of the legal sector and the willingness of law firms to invest in the UK.

‘With the UK in recession, the predicted future state of the economy being so uncertain and the legal sector already struggling in so many areas, imposing a tax on the profession is an unjustified step too far,’ Davis said. 

The Treasury has proposed that the economic crime levy, designed to collected £100m a year, be imposed from 2022/23. It is based on the idea that the costs of further action to tackle money laundering should not be borne solely by the general taxpayer but rather by a ‘joint public-private partnership’. Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in his March budget that firms already in the ambit of money-laundering regulations should be required to pay. This would potentially affect 90,000 businesses, including many legal practices.

The consultation, on the design principles of the levy, proposed that ‘revenue from UK business should form the basis of the levy calculation’. The Law Society disagrees, saying that if the levy goes ahead it should be calculated according to the number of suspicious activity reports (SARs) that a firm submitted the previous year. This would be ‘simple, cheaper and fairer than a revenue-based levy’. However the consultation document argued that this method of calculation could incentivise non-reporting and entrench poor reporting behaviour.  

The consultation closed yesterday. The Treasury said it would announce further steps in due course.

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The ‘Spycops’ bill undermines the rule of law and gives a green light to serious crimes

The so-called culture wars are not just about race and gender. They encompass a barrage of attacks on progressive or “woke” values to distract attention from catastrophic pandemic management in both Washington and Westminster. On closer inspection, some of the targets in the crosshairs are actually rather conservative; a case in point being the rule of law.



text, whiteboard: Photograph: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Stock Photo


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Stock Photo

If the prime minister and the home and defence secretaries are anything to go by, lawyers are the new enemies of the state. But as these ministers are not averse to employing briefs in their own causes – both personal and political – I rather suspect it’s the message, not the messengers, that they are trying to destroy.

Related: David Greene: Condemning lawyers for doing their jobs is inherently dangerous

It is now well over a decade since former master of the rolls Tom Bingham published his seminal book The Rule of Law. The most glittering legal and judicial career notwithstanding, he wanted to make this vital constitutional principle more readily accessible to the people it is designed to protect. He asked me to endorse his book and chair his discussion of it at the Royal Society for Arts. The greatest jurist of my lifetime was also incredibly good at plain English. He set out eight tests for the rule of law with a succinct clarity that any pundit or politician would envy.



text, whiteboard: Banners outside the Royal Courts of Justice during the judge-led public inquiry into alleged misconduct of undercover police officers who spied on hundreds of different political groups.


© Photograph: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Stock Photo
Banners outside the Royal Courts of Justice during the judge-led public inquiry into alleged misconduct of undercover police officers who spied on hundreds of different political groups.

Bingham’s third rule was that “the laws of the land should apply equally to all” . His fifth was, “the law must afford adequate protection of fundamental human rights”. At the time, we thought the former incontrovertible and the latter slightly contentious. Ten years on, both values are in peril.

Two bills currently before the House of Commons would undermine these principles. The overseas operations bill would make it much harder to prosecute British personnel for serious crimes – including torture – overseas, and immunise the Ministry of Defence from claims by the very veterans it has neglected.

The second, the covert human intelligence sources (criminal conduct) bill, is arguably even more abhorrent. It grants a host of state agencies the power to licence its agents and officers to commit grave crimes in advance, even here in the United Kingdom.

To be clear, I believe many undercover operations to be essential. Yet it was always ridiculous that, while judicial warrants were required for the searches of premises, they were not needed for the far more intrusive and dangerous placing of spies in people’s homes, offices, trades unions, friendship circles and even bedrooms. These remain a matter of administrate discretion for security services, police forces and a host of other state agencies, without the need for any external authorisation.

Related: The UK government is attempting to bend the

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TikTok inks multi-year licensing deal with Dutch collecting Society Buma/Stemra

TikTok has signed a multi-year deal with Dutch Collecting Society Buma/Stemra, securing royalty payments for the songwriters, composers and publishers represented by the organization.

The agreement follows last month’s news of TikTok’s 100 million monthly active user milestone in Europe in addition to a similar number in the United States.

As part of the deal, according a press statement, TikTok will work with Buma/Stemra’s members to deepen their “understanding of the platform and the opportunities it presents to those creating and also performing music”.

Buma/Stemra’s members include Dutch EDM stars and TikTok users such as Fedde Le Grand and Tiësto, as well as Martin Garrix, whose hit Ocean featuring Khalid has been used in over 1.4m video creations and Summer Days the soundtrack to 1.2m creations.

In addition, prominent Dutch artists, songwriters and producers Kris Kross Amsterdam, Broederliefde, Duncan Laurence, Sam Feldt, Quintino and Nicky Romero also use the platform.

“This deal with Buma/Stemra secures royalty payments to the Dutch song-writing and publishing community and underlines TikTok’s commitment to paying creators when their music is used.”

Ole Obermann, TikTok

Ole Obermann Global Head of Music at TikTok, said: “This deal with Buma/Stemra secures royalty payments to the Dutch song-writing and publishing community and underlines TikTok’s commitment to paying creators when their music is used.

“Through our platform, a global audience can appreciate and explore their own creativity, using the musical talent of renowned producers, DJs and songwriters from The Netherlands.

“I’m delighted we’ve built on our existing relationship and put this multi-year deal in place.”

“This is good news for our authors and publishers, especially in these days where our members income has diminished in other markets.”

Bernard Kobes, Buma/Stemra

Bernard Kobes, CEO at Buma/Stemra, added:: “We are very happy that the intense but constructive negotiations with TikTok have brought us this agreement.

“This is good news for our authors and publishers, especially in these days where our members income has diminished in other markets.

“We look forward developing this partnership deal further with TikTok and our members”.

 Music Business Worldwide

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Government loses credibility as coronavirus goalposts keep moving

I’ve repeated this often over the last few months. We have lost sight of the goal. I think it’s reasonable for everyone to take a step back and say how did we end up here? How did we go from we need to flatten the curve for the month of April, to “we are going to shut your business down in September and October if you decide to stay open?”

In California, the goalposts continue to move. At the beginning, the goal was to make sure we had enough hospital beds, make sure we had enough PPE equipment, make sure we weren’t having to choose between who could live and who couldn’t. Thankfully, because of the people of San Diego and the great work from our local public health officials, we never had any of those problems.

Now though, the goal has changed. In California, we have a flawed color-coded system and that doesn’t even have a green tier with full openings. Businesses are going to limited in capacity for an indefinite period.

We’ve been told that life won’t get back to normal until there’s a vaccine. So, if the goal truly is to keep everyone locked down until there is a vaccine, we have to start being honest. An Axios/Ipsos poll was done last week that said only 13 percent of Americans would be willing to try the vaccine when it comes out.

Trust is decreasing, and now more and more people are becoming suspicious of what is coming out from the government. Almost all business owners set goals, whether it’s financial or other factors. They set goals as a way to look towards the future.

I look to Governor Newsom and Sacramento and I wonder, what is the goal? Is it hospital capacity? Is it a vaccine and extinction of the virus?

Yes, we should be working on a vaccine, but we should not base our economic future solely on it. We need to learn to live with this virus. If a vaccine is the goal, we need to win the trust back of the public. We need to let them get back to a life as normal as possible. We need to give them the facts.

The facts are, if you are under the age of 50 you have a 99.98% chance of surviving COVID-19. If you are below 70 you have a 99.5% chance. In San Diego County, 6% of our hospital beds are COVID-19 patients, and we have thousands of open hospital beds available in case of an increase. Those are the facts.

We need to quit playing with the emotions of business owners and with flawed color-coded systems. We need to start being honest when it comes to the goals for dealing with COVID-19, because we are quickly losing the trust of the people.

Jim Desmond is a San Diego County supervisor.

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Mothers are the ‘Shock Absorbers’ of Our Society

Without school, the calculation implodes. If you can even get child care, the high expenses continue, and during this pandemic, there is more housework to be done and more child-related tasks to complete. (For example, I spent at least 15 minutes last week trying to log into Seesaw — a string of words that would not have even made sense to me before March 2020.) Because men tend to outearn women, it is economically the more rational decision for some proportion of mothers to leave their jobs.

But that does not mean they’re happy about it, or that it’s good for marriages or long-term financial security. “Sacrificing market skills to help your family comes at a really big cost,” said Stevenson. “And potentially causes tensions in marriages, and when you put those two together, a generation of women may be pretty badly scarred by Covid.”

Calarco has been conducting a survey of over 100 Indiana mothers as part of the Pandemic Parenting Study since April, and she found that almost 40 percent of her respondents are reporting increases in pandemic-related frustrations with their partners, and child care is a major source of strife. Rather than ask their spouses to step up their domestic contributions, “mothers blame themselves for these conflicts and feel responsible for reducing them, including by leaving the work force, beginning use of antidepressants, or ignoring their own concerns about Covid-19,” Calarco and her co-authors noted in a pre-print of a new paper using data from their study.

As Muthulingam put it, women are the “shock absorbers of our system, and the poorer and more precarious you are, the more shock you’re expected to absorb.” She recognizes how lucky she is to even be able to cut down on work — something single mothers, like Jamie Brody, 38, of Boynton Beach, Fla., cannot do.

Brody has a 3-year-old daughter, and she lost her job as an account executive for an insurance company in May, which she described as “quite traumatic.” When she was unemployed and without consistent child care, she would spend all day teaching and playing with her kid. Then after she put her daughter to bed, Brody estimated that she spent three to five hours each night scouring job sites looking for work.

She finally found a job selling data visualization software, which she started two weeks ago, and Brody’s daughter is back in preschool, which makes her feel anxious. “I feel like I’m choosing between health and financial security,” she said. That’s a choice that no parent should have to make.

P.S. Follow us on Instagram @NYTParenting. If this was forwarded to you, sign up for the NYT Parenting newsletter here.

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SAfrican cricket in danger of ban as government intervenes

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South Africa is in danger of being banned from international cricket after its government said Wednesday that it intended to intervene in the affairs of the sport’s national body following revelations of serious misconduct by senior officials.

The statement from sports minister Nathi Mthethwa said he had informed the International Cricket Council of the intended action. The ICC’s constitution forbids government interference and the punishment is normally a ban from international games for the country’s teams until the national cricket body is operating independently again.

The tension between the South African government and Cricket South Africa relates to a long-running investigation into the affairs of the cricket body, which resulted in the firing of CEO Thabang Moroe for serious misconduct in August.

But Cricket South Africa refused to make the report by independent investigators public and also resisted an attempt by the government-aligned South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee to conduct its own investigation into CSA.

CSA ultimately relented and publicly released a summary of the forensic investigation’s findings this month, more than two months after it received the report. CSA was also forced to hand over the full report, nearly 500 pages long, to a committee of South African lawmakers last week after they demanded to see it.

The parts of the report that have been publicly released revealed serious misconduct and possible acts of corruption and implicated Moroe and former chief operating officer Naasei Appiah in the wrongdoing. But lawmakers who saw all the documents questioned Tuesday why other executives and board members at the body were not investigated, and if CSA was trying to hide wrongdoing by others.

They called it a “a one-sided report.”

CSA is currently operating with an acting president and an acting CEO, and the board has been severely criticized for failing to act to stop the misconduct during Moroe’s tenure.

On Wednesday, Mthethwa said a series of meetings with CSA “to try and assist CSA to stabilize its governance matters” had come to nothing and accused the cricket body of being uncooperative.

“I have now reached a point where I see no value in any further engagement with CSA,” Mthethwa said.

The sports minister gave cricket officials until Oct. 27 to argue why he shouldn’t intervene.

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Don’t blame the government for its handling of Covid. It’s our fault, apparently

At the weekend I went to Broadway Market in east London for the first time in seven months, because – and you don’t need to know this, but I’m telling you anyway – I became semi-obsessed with some walnut saucisson I saw tagged there on Instagram, and emerged blinking and pale from my hole just to find some. I’m glad I did, because the entire venture felt like a normal-world autumnal thing to be doing: shuffling round a food market in a long coat, holding a slightly overpriced latte someone made with an imported Japanese machine, marvelling at small, aesthetically bred pedigree dogs, looking at a vintage trinket stall and considering if I want to have a copper diving helmet in my house (no): revelling in that gorgeous early Saturday afternoon ritual of slowly deciding that you want a pint.



a person holding a sign: Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/REX/Shutterstock


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/REX/Shutterstock

For a moment I felt normal, and then I gazed out over the crowd and the intrusive thought came back into my head: “Guh, they should all be at home! Covidiots!”

That phrase, GTSABAH! C!, has been in my brain more or less on a loop since April, when the first clench of lockdown loosened just an inch, and people went tentatively to the park, and other people – let’s be honest, snitches – took photos of them there, and tweeted those photos and sent them to the newspapers, which then presented small clusters of people quietly eating a 99 on a park bench in the same way you or I might regard a war crime. Ever since then I’ve been careful not to find myself in too big a crowd out in public, because it only takes one person with a wide-angle lens and there I am, trapped in the same nonchalant, angular pose as Bigfoot in that photo, a super-spreader criminal with a rapidly melting Feast halfway up to his nose, damned online for ever. So mostly, I’ve stayed indoors.

This would be fine if the public didn’t still blame me for, well, coronavirus. As YouGov found this week, the wider public – ie the victims of, and necessarily the spreaders of, coronavirus – predominantly blame each other for the crisis and not – random example – the government that has overseen a succession of calamitous cronyism and policy failures on a thrice-weekly basis since March. Of 1,972 adults surveyed, 53% hold the public (that is: themselves) responsible for the rise in coronavirus cases over the past month, with only 28% pointing their (freshly washed, for 20 seconds or more) finger at the government. Split that data by voting intention, and 78% of Conservative voters blame the public, with only 7% mad at the government. Labour voters went 29% public, 55% government. As for leave voters, 71% said public, 14% government, while remain went for the most balanced split: 42% public, 43% government.



a person holding a sign: ‘YouGov found that the wider public predominantly blame each other for the crisis and not, random example, the government that has overseen a succession of policy failures.’


© Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/REX/Shutterstock
‘YouGov found that the wider public predominantly blame each other for the

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Sunak Urged to Protect Indebted Poor Nations With New Law

(Bloomberg) — U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak could free the poorest nations to fight the coronavirus pandemic by protecting them from “unscrupulous” private creditors, the opposition Labour Party said.

With English law governing a significant share of the sovereign debt issued by developing nations, Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds called for legislation to protect those countries from being sued for debt recovery by private lenders. It’s time, she said, for the government to show leadership on debt forgiveness in the way successive U.K. governments did a decade ago following the financial crisis.



a man wearing a suit and tie: U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak Presents 'Winter Economy Plan'


© Bloomberg
U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak Presents ‘Winter Economy Plan’

Rishi Sunak

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Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

“A global debt crisis would not just undermine the fight against the virus, but drive up poverty, increase political instability and hamper efforts to address climate change,” Dodds wrote in a letter to Sunak ahead of a meeting of Group of 20 finance ministers on Wednesday.

The Treasury said Britain is pushing international partners to reach an agreed approach on debt reduction with “comparable” reductions from private creditors.

Some 73 of the world’s poorest nations could potentially benefit from $11.5 billion of savings under a program called the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, agreed by G-20 nations in April, according to World Bank estimates. The program runs through the end of the year, and the U.K. is among nations that support extending it beyond then.

“To protect the poorest countries’ ongoing access to international markets, the G-20 agreed that the private sector should take part in the Debt Service Suspension Initiative voluntarily,” the Treasury said in a statement. “We continue to strongly encourage private creditors to participate whenever requested by borrowers.”

Showing Leadership

Under the DSSI, eligible countries can ask private creditors for the same freeze as they have with sovereign ones, but only a handful have done so out of fear they could fall into default and be locked out of debt markets for years.

Labour, citing International Monetary Fund data, said English law governs 46% of the total outstanding stock of international sovereign bonds. That proportion rises to 90% of debt issued by the nations benefiting from the forgiveness program, according to the Jubilee Debt Campaign.

“A powerful show of leadership would be for the U.K. to bring forward legislation that amends English law, temporarily limiting the ability of private creditors to sue for debt recovery for the 73 countries covered by the DSSI,” Dodds said.

She pointed to existing laws introduced by Labour and passed by the Conservative-led government that succeeded it in 2010, covering the debt of 45 nations issued before 2004.

“Similar legislation for the current crisis, brought forward after consultation, would provide a lifeline for some of the world’s poorest countries and prevent so-called ‘vulture funds’ profiteering from the economic distress caused by the pandemic,” Dodds said.

(Updates with Treasury comment starting in fourth paragraph.)

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©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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