Say it but don’t blame me

Posted by 2 May, 2015 (0) Comment

Sometimes it’s best to help your prospects understand what you offer that your competitors don’t rather than trying to highlight the inadequacies of your competitors. This is specially the case when the comments you make are in public especially when your competitors get angered easily and or have very deep pockets or in-house legal teams. This article explains what happens when someone is unhappy  with what you say about them, how to avoid it and what you can do about it.

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I have a client who has produced software that is absolute outstanding and reduces the amount of time you and I spend waiting for organizations to answer our calls. It also reduces the number of staff call center require and I think it’s a product that provides everyone with a benefit. They have nearly 1 million subscribers to their app so they must be doing something right.

There was a time, before they appeared on “Dragons Den”, that they were looking to generate a buzz about their business. They talked to a marketing consultant and eventually persuaded to use a marketing expert who’s specialized in generating PR for technology based businesses. It all sounds great, everything heading in the right direction.

 

We didn’t say that did we?

 

The marketing expert had decided to seed the press and other relevant forums with explanations about the different waiting times that people experience when calling well known companies. In theory these companies were not competitors to our clients. They were irked even angered, to find them self at the top of a table highlighting which companies leaves callers on hold for the longest time. The angriest was a particularly large company in the health industry and they decided to issue a letter asking our client to explain exactly where they got their information from and asking them to remove any reference to that company from the public domain. This was an understandable reaction to an article that was supposed to improve the profile of this client yet it just sort to anger a party they didn’t needed to anger and caused many other problems internally. The initial panic should never be underestimated when you get a letter from a in-house lawyer because they have so much time on their hands to deal with such issues.

naturally my first question to my client was had they actually made the points that the in-house lawyer objected to. Their answer was it wasn’t us. Yet when I used Google I found the article was credited to them. At which point they said it was an outsourced marketing expert who had put these articles together. I asked if the marketing expert had provided evidence of their insurance. Blank looks all round. I asked if the marketing expert’s research had been checked by my client. More blank looks. I asked if the marketing expert had used an specialist to research the details they were using. The blank looks continued.

 

Shall we tell them it wasn’t us.

 

This was the comment my client made next and I asked them if they thought that would send the complainant off towards the marketing company and they realized that was probably never going to happen. If that were the case, everyone would simply say someone else did it in our name and no one would ever seize or desist when the lining someone. Fortunately they didn’t need to have this conversation because we had already provided them with a legal defense if allegation of liable defamation or breach of confidentiality were leveled at them yet they still had learned a valuable lesson about suppliers. These days very few businesses are self contained. Nearly every company I know relies on a employee or another organization to help them deliver their product or services. However not all such businesses are as careful as they should be and you can either be guilty by association or considered guilty because something is done under your umbrella.

Top Tip:
Check your suppliers carefully if they have insurance and it is fit for purpose you can give them a free rain, which makes your life easier.

Wrap up:
If they don’t have insurance you shouldn’t be dealing with them. Because at best, your insurance premiums will creep up as your suppliers make mistakes. That’s like buying car insurance and allowing the worst driver you know and drive even though they are already banned.

 

 

Categories : Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Liability Insurance Tags : , , , , ,

No-one will sue me or blame me

Posted by 27 December, 2014 (0) Comment

Business is easier to do when people are getting on yet it pays to keep everyone happy when relationships start to falter. This article is about money, the fact that it talks when opinions differ and why it is a foreign language for some.

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I’ve had an idea…..but I can’t do it on my own

 

Inventors are not just stuck in sheds. Some of them are hugely creative and have big idea after big idea. I am contacted by inventors when they want to protect an idea they’ve created. Most of them are in “start-up” mode and it takes time for the income to pour in.

However, they still need services to help them lift off and it is not uncommon to reach bartering agreements or agree profit or equity shares with those that help them out. Wonderful isn’t it? In an ideal World, yes, in the real World it depends. Recently, I’ve been contacted by two different companies who both had similar issues with such agreements . They were both being taken to court when such “contracts” had gone sour, they were very loose unwritten agreements.

We can’t agree about everything

 

But it pays to sit down and agree the basics. The first indication that something was going wrong was the receipt of a legal document outlining a case of a service provided that hadn’t been paid for. In each case the inventor thought they had “come to an agreement” yet the complainant asserted that nothing had been written down and they expected a prompt realisation of profits, which is rare. Both inventors were upset as well as being annoyed. One was being asked for £40,000 in fees for work they had “ordered”. The other was being invoiced for £18,000 fees for time spent “assisting” the start-uo.

Even after the first legal notice was issued, the inventor contacted the person that was “owed” the £40,000 and came to another agreement. They were somewhat surprised to learn, soon after, that the complainant had obtained a judgement against them and bailiffs were chasing them for money they didn’t have. Sometimes, the courts do odd things. Launching an appeal has proved fruitless for at lease one company facing a wind up order. Their business was closed down by a judge before the appeal date arrived. It is beyond belief.

You owe me, I sue you

 

Eventually, the money was found yet it had been earmarked for marketing so the launch had to be delayed in one case. The debts were paid when they may not have been legally liable to pay them. They were forced to settle because they didn’t have the resources to defend themselves.

Defending yourself doesn’t have to be ridiculously costly but it does take up time. High quality legal resources have to be paid for. It’s not only about what you sign, it’s about what you agree.  Verbal agreements are often considered binding by one party and failure to defend a corner means louder voices are likely to be heard. The balance between defending and paying up doesn’t always leave defendants between a rock and a hard place. I have plenty of clients who have successfully defended  spurious allegations.

Wrap up; Contracts aren’t always big documents and verbal agreements are often taken seriously. It’s really difficult to juggle all the tasks when unexpected legal issues arise. Not to mention the upset if you don’t know where to turn.

Top tip; Do not ignore issues that are on the “too difficult list”. They have a habit of resurfacing  and investor shareholders hate that too. It is not fair but the deepest pockets usually win.

Categories : After The Event,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Design Insurance,Domian name protection,Intellectual Property Insurance,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Patent Insurance,Trade Secret Protection,Trademark Insurance Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Efficient insurance isn’t always friendly

Posted by 23 June, 2014 (0) Comment

This article is about how improvements in technology should help providers improve the service to their clientèle. Read on to find out how IT has made life easier, where it has failed, and the backlash that is “in the post”.

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Treating customers fairly?

 

Recently I have been learning how to use a new IT system which will increase our efficiency and profit. The people showing us how to use the system are terribly nice and say some nice things, yet also some very surprising things. One that really did surprise me relates to the way the system allows us to meet all the compliance regulations that are bestowed upon us, by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) I was pleased to find that the system made our life easier when ticking the compliance boxes.

It was during a discussion about “treating customers fairly” (TCF) that I was so surprised. TCF involves doing what it says on the tin – making sure that the customer is at the centre of what you do. This ensures that they are well treated and their aims are met whilst your business meets its aims too. For me, this is the most valuable thing you can do in a business, because customers are always right and when they are wrong, its usually because they have not been well informed. This is a statement that most business owners don’t want to hear, yet when they are the customer they realise that it’s actually true.

What’s the surprise?

 

The comment that surprised me so much was after I complimented the trainers on showing us how to add efficiency into our compliant processes. Our training lady announced that no one usually cares about this, to which I exclaimed “pardon!” because I couldn’t believe that a sector so beaten and bowed by criticism still fails to take its customers’ rights seriously. I enquired what the lady meant by “no one usually cares” and she reiterated that all the other people she trains (all is probably an overstatement) find ways to avoid ticking the compliance box of TCF. I am not surprised that this happens, but I am surprised that it is an industry wide problem. However, it does explain one scenario that has puzzled me somewhat.

Why is it important?

 

When I first went “alone” I carried out research and found that a healthy percentage of people that had purchased insurance were not sure that it was right for them. This meant there were people who would find our service useful. This gave us immense confidence as we ploughed our furrow and provided a service that isn’t available to all. It still isn’t available to all, because we could not possible service the entire commercial insurance buying public, not by ourselves. But watch this space. We have no immediate plans to dominate the UK, yet what I have discovered over the last few years has shown us that the vast majority of people who buy insurance are not treated fairly. There is work for us to do in changing that. It is a challenge, but one I am ready for.

Wrap Up: Not all insurance policies are the same. Not insurance companies are the same. Not all businesses are the same. So ensure you get what you need, before you need it.

Top Tip: If ever you do have a problem with insurance ask your supplier how they are treating you fairly, whilst dealing with the problem.

 

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,Design Insurance,Domian name protection,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Intellectual Property Insurance,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Patent Insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Trade Secret Protection,Trademark Insurance,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , ,

Flatterers deceive UK start-ups

Posted by 19 April, 2014 (0) Comment

A spectacularly large US company flattered a UK start-up with a huge contract which was eventually signed and secured. This would give them the capital they need to multiply their success. The contract wasn’t exclusive and the start ups web application was valuable to many similar companies. A fantastic “result” and only two types of insurance were required by the US company.

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Contractual responsibility

 

The contract issued by the Americanclient had 2 pages making direct reference to the type of due diligence, risk management and business insurance required of the start-up. The rest of the contract revealed 26 further liabilities and requirements that were, or would become, necessary.

Not all were manageable for a small company with limited cash flow. The really fine points of the contract referenced this exact point and made it clear they would take full and furious legal action if something went wrong. Ouch, a soft landing is required so we received an introduction.

Part of the liability related to the website, which was provided as a service, and had to be operational 99.9% of the time. The US company staff would be trained to use it and then supported 24/7. It had to work and the contract made it clear that they would want compensation for any downtime over 0.01% in any one year. Keep in mind that one way to compensate is not charge fees that are due.

Penetration testing must be the answer

 

It helps work out weaknesses today yet doesn’t account for advances made by hackers tomorrow. IT Systems security methods of suppliers aren’t always reliable and data theft was the main concern of the US client. They made the UK startup contractually liable for the costs of notification to the relevant authorities and those whose personal data is compromised.

This is a really tough figure to try and quantify because few own up when they have a data breach so the statistics cannot be compiled. Contrast that with fires where it is easier to quantify losses.

That won’t change just because it becomes a must to do (new regulations are due to land in the EU in 2015). So if some Herbert got at the data, the US company would have to spend to meet US regulations and the UK start-up could be ruined by the losses. Identity theft costs vary from person to person so it really is a difficult number to calculate.

Legal liabilities change across borders or state lines

 

The chances of a breach are minuscule, the costs ridiculous. The damage to brand immeasurable. Get a lawyer to get legal on your contracts and they’ll close the gaps. Some clauses don’t hold water in the UK yet US companies issue proceedings where they want. The contract formed a vicious circle when the statement of work and suppliers agreement were reviewed together. No stone had been left unturned and the US company had a fair minded legal team. That is not always the case.

However, there was a liability of millions and the supplier of the application’s infrastructure were only going to cough up £182k if they failed to maintain their supply. Worse still, the infrastructure wasn’t easy to transfer to a new supplier and a 30 day window tied the start-up down. No fix in 30 days and the US contract terminated automatically. And further contracts would not have been issued by them or anyone else.

We deal with cyber risk every weekly basis. It rarely touches the smaller business, yet their suppliers are at risk. Cloud sounds great yet it is not as solid as your own database with your own security. The solutions are a contractual nightmare.

Wrap up: It is not unheard of for a large company to issue a contract to a start-up, allege an error and drown them in legal proceedings. This is because they can then strike a deal which leaves the start-up Directors free of debt if they give up their Intellectual Property. Only in America? No! Uk companies do this too. Does Directors protection work in these cases? No! See why here: http://www.cobinecarmelson.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/What-are-Directors-real-risks.-CCLv5-URL.pdf

Top tip: One digital games company signed an NDA and found the other signatory copied their ideas and started selling their titles. It cost £300,000 to force them to stop and compensate the original designer. There is no point getting someone to sign an NDA unless you have the means to enforce it !

Categories : Accountants Insurance,All Risks Insurance,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Design Insurance,Domian name protection,General Requirements,Intellectual Property Insurance,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Patent Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Trade Secret Protection,Trademark Insurance Tags : , , , , , , , , , ,

Double agent leaves tenant between a rock and a hard place

Posted by 9 February, 2014 (0) Comment
This article is about tenants, builders and surveyors. One of them behaved badly when an insurance claim occurred and it’s not who you think. Insurance fraud is a huge problem for all of us. This article gives you some clues as to how you can avoid getting caught up, and caught out, when someone thinks it’s OK to commit fraud.
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Leaks can be a real drag

 

A last minute call before Christmas comes from a client in a mini panic because the client facilities at their studio have got pools of water where it shouldn’t be. The area has to be sealed off because of the leak and the business might have to close, albeit temporarily, if gets any worse.

This is a straightforward issue for us, yet it could be the first time a client is going through this scenario and prompt assistance and advice is what they need. We provided the reassurance that we promised, confirming that the damage to their property was covered. However we instructed them to contact their landlords insurance people because the leak had not sprung from nowhere. It was likely that both insurers would need to be involved. This is quite common and, in this case, a managing agent handled insurance affairs for the landlord.

Property Manager or Mangler?

 

After a fashion, I received another call from the client explaining that the property managing agent did not want to offer much assistance. They simply said “the builder must be responsible”. I reminded the client that their landlord had cover for investigating leaks, which had become clear when we checked their insurance provision at the beginning. Armed with this information the client/tenant felt confident in contacting the managing agent and pressing their point home. Subsequently, a surveyor arrives and determines that a pipe has not been correctly sealed, causing water to leak and bubble up through the flooring. Luckily it was water rather than waste that leaked, so the damage wasn’t too messy.

In the ordinary course of things, this would have been simple from here on in. The landlord’s insurance pays for the tracing of the leak and the builder repairs the pipe they installed defectively and the client has insurance to repair the resultant damage to their flooring, etc. The managing agent had other ideas.

Why do people think it’s OK to to defraud insurers?

 

The managing agent contacted the tenant and asked them to pay for the surveyors invoice. When they refused, because it is not their responsibility, the property managing agent said “completely off the record, it will be much easier to do business with us if you tell your insurance company that this was an uninsured part of the landlord’s policy, or write a letter confirming that there were more damaged areas than was actually true”. They wanted to recover the cost of the surveyor without resorting to their own insurance. Or rather, the landlord’s insurance. This seems daft because it’s not their insurance to worry about. It’s the landlord’s! Doing their job properly means presenting insurance claims to insurers in order for them to be settled promptly, fairly, and keep the premises in good shape.

What we know is that this happens all too often. Regrettably, property managing agents have to have their fingers in the landlord’s insurance pie, and they do deals with insurance companies, not always with the landlord’s knowledge, that means that they get paid extra if they do not make too many claims. This is on top of the income they receive for managing the insurance, which is paid to them by the insurance company and allows them to charge the landlord less for the overall management of the property. To landlords this is either something they are unaware of, or dressed up as a good deal. However, they don’t seem to realise that it is going to cost them money in the long run if the property is not well looked after.

Surely the managing agent should be looking after the property rather than trying to earn money out of the insurance that they don’t even pay for. People find it hard to believe that this happens, yet property managing agents seem quite willing to hide the commissions they receive from their clientele and mess up claims situations when it suits them. At the end of the day they always blame the builder or the tenant. Who is the landlord going to believe?

Top Tip: Always check the insurance arrangements of a premises you are about to buy or lease, because you will find insurance history can paint a different picture to the particulars you were originally shown.

Wrap Up: There are some great property managing agents out there yet there are also plenty of rogues. Accountants have told me that they have recovered many hundreds of thousands of pounds from property managing agents who stitched up the owners of properties they looked after. It’s not just on insurance, they do the same on maintenance issues and when repairs are required. Take a closer look at the bills they are sending and see if you can spot any trend that doesn’t make sense.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,Design Insurance,Domian name protection,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Intellectual Property Insurance,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Patent Insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Trade Secret Protection,Trademark Insurance,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Travel for business is rarely pleasurable

Posted by 20 December, 2013 (0) Comment

Recently a intern from the United States got appendicitis while he was seconded to us. This article highlights the inconvenience this causes to an individual, the business, and everyone.

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Knowledge is not power every time

 

Stephen had majored in bio mechanics. It didn’t stop him coming a cropper when his body decided to give out whilst in the UK. He had never had issues with his stomach before, and who knows what actually caused his appendix to grumble. No one was more shocked than he, when he was told he needed a surgical intervention. To say I was shocked was an understatement. The people who look after him called me to say that he had been hospitalised and that he wouldn’t be able to work for 48 hours.

Little did we know, this was just the start of his problems. The first thing to consider when an employee falls ill is their welfare. Fortunately, we have the NHS, and I knew Stephen would be well looked after. However, after he had been stabilised the boredom set in, and his real nightmare began.

Completing projects benefits everyone

 

Stephen wasn’t exactly overjoyed when his mother arrived. Who can blame her, she was really worried about her still teenage son. However, Stephen was more concerned about his father and brothers, who would, at first, starve for a few days. His other concern was that they would give him a lot of grief for removing their carer for a few days. When it became evident that doctors were too quick to discharge Stephen, he headed back to A&E with an issue that could not have been related to his missing appendix. The doctors were more concerned this time, as surely, they hadn’t removed his appendix for nothing.

It was at this time that Stephen became extremely apologetic and was more than a bit miffed. He had intended to show that he was not a one trick pony, by completing a project that we had agreed upon before he arrived in the UK. It was evident that he would be able to start the project, but certainly not complete it. So after the welfare of a sick employee is resolved, there is still the lost time and productivity to think about.

Why do clients trust us with their travelers?

 

Usually I’m dealing with clients whose staff have been taken out of action whilst they are abroad. The things that have happened recently include someone in the USA cutting their hand on a tin of beans (I kid you not!) and had been relieved of $4,000 by US hospitals. More pressing was the cost of the employee who had to be sent to replace them. The presentation they could not complete still had to be delivered on time. Don’t even get me started on the issues that clients had with a volcanic ash a few years ago. That was the week when everyone who thought that it would never happen to them, realised that it had. The one issue a client raised with me that I thought would never happen, is probably the most tragic I have ever been involved with.

Luckily, I did not have to deal with the issue on the day it arose. Before I ran my own business I worked for brokers who spent a lot of time working with charities. Imagine my horror to hear on the news one day that a young person had been attacked by a polar bear whilst on a field trip in an inhospitable region. Your thoughts turn to the family of the injured at times like that.

There was a fatality in this case, yet I was also certain that the emergency assistance that I had arranged for this particular charity had the resources, including helicopters, to make sure that everyone on the ground was helped as soon as possible, and that the students were spirited away from the area as soon as was practical. I also know that a counselling service was available for those traumatised by the issue. It’s not often someone in my industry can take pride when something goes wrong. You really, sincerely, hope it never does. Yet knowing what you have done professionally has helped people personally is what we strive for.

Wrap Up: Some of my clients go as far as covering the holiday travel arrangements of their staff, as they don’t want them to be left stranded in a foreign clime because their personal travel arrangements fell apart. If you run a tight ship then all of your staff are absolutely necessary, you don’t want to be without them for a few days just because a travel insurance company decides to wriggle out of their promise to get all travellers home when they need to be back.

Top Tip: Planning for the worst might seem pessimistic, but it pays to be prepared. Make sure you are covered for every eventuality – if you can imagine it it can happen.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,Design Insurance,Domian name protection,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Intellectual Property Insurance,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Patent Insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Trade Secret Protection,Trademark Insurance,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , ,