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New Year, New Business: 3 key areas to watch out for in 2024

Two-thirds of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January, but research has shown that the fresh start that a new year brings is good motivation to make a change – and the same applies to your business.

In this article we look at three key areas for businesses to be aware of in 2024.

1. New terms and conditions

For many businesses January can bring a lull in trading after the pre-Christmas rush. This makes it a good time to review your terms and conditions and to ensure that your business is protected for the year ahead. Providing customers with clear terms and conditions is an essential business practice, but is something that is often neglected, particularly when trading becomes busy or there is pressure from the customer to start work quickly. This can lead to unnecessary disputes, delayed payments and poor cash flow.

If your terms and conditions haven’t been reviewed in the past few years they should be reviewed to make sure that they are up to date with current law and reflect your current business processes. If you are trading without terms and conditions in place you are at risk of finding out the hard way that verbal agreements and ‘handshake deals’ could leave you exposed to disputes should a disagreement arise with your customer.

We can help to put in place terms and conditions that are tailored to your business and include clear provisions in areas that most often lead to disputes. This includes when and how the terms and conditions apply, when and how customers should make payment, and the circumstances in which each party can terminate the relationship.

2. All change to consumer law

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill is expected to become law this year. For any business that deals with consumers this will bring in a raft of changes that businesses will need to make sure that they can comply with.

In particular:

Subscription contracts

New rules relating to subscription contracts are being introduced in an effort to stop consumers from being tied into contracts that they don’t want. The new rules will apply to any contract which automatically renews unless the consumer cancels it, or which contains a free or reduced price trial period after the consumer will have to make payments at the higher rate unless they cancel it.

The new rules will require businesses to give consumers clear information before the start of the contract relating to any auto-renewal mechanism, the charges that will apply after the trial period, information on payment terms and details of how the consumer can end the contract. Businesses will also be required to send reminder notices to customers who have taken out a subscription prior to any automatically renewal, and to take steps to make it quick and easy for a consumer to terminate their subscription.

New enforcement powers for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)

The Bill gives the CMA new powers to investigate and fine businesses that breach consumer law without the need to apply to court. This is likely to result in a significant increase in consumer law enforcement actions. Along with its new enforcement powers the CMA will be able to impose GDPR style fines on non-complaint businesses of up 10 per cent of annual global turnover, or in the case of individuals, up to £300,000.

3. Incoming data protection changes

The UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 set out a multitude of obligations on any businesses that control or process personal data, including empowering individuals to whom the relevant data relates to with rights such as the right to access and request erasure of their personal data. The ICO continues to monitor compliance with UK data protection legislation and to fine organisations for failure to comply. It therefore remains vital that businesses have appropriate data protection practices and documentation in place in order to demonstrate compliance.

There are also a number of significant incoming data protection changes that are expected in 2024.

In particular:

Online Safety Act

The Online Safety Act applies to businesses providing services where users can create and share content, interact with each other, or where users can search other websites or databases. Among other things, platforms will be required take steps to prevent illegal content from appearing on their website, act quickly to remove illegal content, prevent children from accessing “harmful” content (eg relating to self-harm), and implement age verification checks. Businesses that do not comply face fines or criminal sanctions from Ofcom.

The UK Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill

This bill applies to organisations which process personal data as part of their UK operations, and those which process the personal data of UK residents. It aims to make data protection compliance more straightforward, grant individuals more rights and control over their personal data and will increase flexibility for data transfers outside the UK.

Data Protection (Adequacy) (United States of America) Regulations (the UK-US Data Bridge Regulations)

The Data Bridge, introduced in October 2023, allows UK businesses to transfer personal data to certified organisations in the US without the need for appropriate safeguards (such as Standard Contractual Clauses (with a UK Addendum) (SCCs) or the UK’s International Data Transfer Agreement (IDTA). The aim is to ensure more efficient transatlantic and cost-effective data flows between the UK and the United States.

Does your company need their terms and conditions reviewing, or would they benefit from an update to their data protection policy? Clarke Willmott’s commercial team are offering a New Year discounted rate for a limited time.

For further information and guidance, please contact Rebecca Hallam or Sana Shah below, or request a consultation.

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Sana Shah

Solicitor

Manchester
Sana is a Solicitor in the Corporate & Commercial team, specialising in commercial, intellectual property and technology law. She advises on both contentious and non-contentious intellectual property matters, data protection and privacy issues and other commercial arrangements.
View profile for Sana Shah >

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