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Thursday, 13 April 2017

The Brexit White Paper

The grandly-named Great Repeal Bill White Paper (officially entitled "Legislating for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union") was published by the government on 30 March. It sets out "the government’s proposals for ensuring a functioning statute book once we have left the EU". Which is just as well, because without the EU the statute book could have some big holes in it. Commercial and consumer law, company law, intellectual property law, construction and use of motor vehicles - the list goes on.
It covers plans for converting existing EU law - the acquis, as EU lawyers call it - into UK law, making any idea that Brexit is about regaining sovereignty illusory, at least in the medium term, and explains how "corrections" will be made to the statute book. It also deals with the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972, which is probably much the easiest part of the process.
The upshot is that business will find the legal landscape much the same after Brexit as before. The Great Repeal Bill will convert all EU laws that apply to the UK into domestic laws - the only practicable approach to the problem. It won't make substantive changes, except where some amendment is necessary to ensure that the law functions properly.
So, sovereignty consists of accepting the acquis and reserving the right to change once the UK has regained its "independence". What about the vexed question of the supremacy of the Court of Justice? The White Paper promises that historic decisions of the Court of Justice will be given the same status as decisions of the Supreme Court. That much is consistent with adopting the acquis into UK law, as any other approach would be to change the law. Lower courts could not overrule Court of Justice decisions, and the White Paper says that the government "expects" the Supreme Court to take a "sparing approach" to departing from existing case law - in much the same way as the Supremes deal with their own (and the House of Lords') existing case law. But to have the government tell us what it expects the judges to do feels very uncomfortable, especially when the judiciary has already been denounced as "enemies of the people" by the pro-Brexit press.
The necessary primary legislation will be introduced in the next Parliamentary session, and will take full effect the day the UK leaves the EU. The power to "correct" legislation by statutory instrument will have to come into operation before then. The government estimates that between 800 and 1,000 statutory instruments will be needed, and expresses its intention to strike the right balance between parliamentary scrutiny and speed. Notwithstanding that the whole purpose of Brexit was to restore Parliament's sovereignty and ensure that legislation be properly scrutinised in future, it is paradoxical that a compromise should be necessary - a compromise in which speed will almost certainly have to take precedence over scrutiny. At least the government promises that the power to make corrective secondary legislation will be limited in time.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Welsh car dealer fined £12,000 for offering to supply a dangerous vehicle - Car Dealer Magazine

Car Dealer Magazine reports that a dealer in Wales has been fined £12,000 (reduced from £18,000 to recognise that the dealer had pleaded guilty) under the General Product Safety Regulations 2006 for supplying a Renault Clio in dangerous condition. The handbrake did not work. More to the point, perhaps, is that the company had previously been cautioned for similar offences and had been given advice (at another site) about the importance of all vehicles it offered being safe.

The Court was told that safety checks were carried out by staff members who had no formal mechanical training or qualifications.



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The Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) (Amendment) Regulations 2017

The Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 deal with the important matter of sharing vehicle registration information with other countries, specifically other EU Member States. It empowers the Secretary of State, through DVLA, to provide information to the authorities of another Member State about the registered keeper of a vehicle registered in the UK, along with certain other information on the register. The information must be requested to facilitate the investigation in the other Member State of an alleged traffic offence relate to road safety which took place after the Regulations came into effect.

The Secretary of State is also designated for the purpose of requesting the same information from other Member States where offences are committed in the UK.

The offences to which the Regulations apply are drink driving, driving while under the influence of drugs, failing to stop at a red traffic light, failing to use a seat belt of child restraint, failing to wear a crash helmet, using a hand-held communication device while driving, speeding, and using what is ominously called a "forbidden lane".

The Regulations implement (or "transpose") EU Directive 2015/413 of the European Parliament and of
the Council of 11th March 2015 facilitating cross-border exchange of information on
road safety related traffic offences. This directive replaced  Directive 2011/82/EU which the Court of Justice found had been made under the wrong Treaty power (justice and home affairs), which allowed the UK (and Ireland and Denmark) to opt out of it.

The Regulations were made on 6 April and come into effect on 6 May 2017.



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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

USA: class action for disappointed Shelby Mustang owners

Consumer law firm Hagens Berman is putting together a class action for disappointed customers for Ford's Shelby GT350 Mustang (2016 model), which far from being the exciting track car that Ford advertised is said to suffer from overheating problems. Sustained high-speed driving (which is what a track car is supposed to be for) is more than the transmission and diff can cope with, and the car goes into "limp mode" to prevent damage. Limping is, I guess, the antithesis of what you buy a track car for.

The problem can also arise when the cars are driven on the road. It stems, the law firm contends, from the absence of coolers for those parts of the drive train. Base and Tech models are affected.

Hagens Berman's page about the claim is here.

Monday, 27 March 2017

USA: Legal settlement about recalled used cars challenged

A legal settlement reached on 8 December last year between the Federal Trade Commission and GM and two used-car dealers is being challenged by consumer rights activists in court in Washington DC. The settlement is alleged to allow cars to be sold as 'safe' or 'certified' even if it has defective air bags, faulty ignition switches or other potentially lethal problems, provided the used car dealer discloses that the vehicle may be subject to a pending safety recall.

The papers filed at the Federal Court by Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, Center for Auto Safety and U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Inc., are available from here. See also the article on the fairwarning.com website, here.

Friday, 10 March 2017

USA: VW plead guilty to emissions offences

Law 360 reports that VW has pleaded guilty in a federal court in Michigan to three criminal charges arising from Dieselgate, and agreed to pay $4.3 billion in criminal and civil penalties. The charges were counts of conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud and violations of the Clean Air Act.

Further coverage of the story is herehere, and here.

Hybrid patent wars

In the US, Ford is under investigation by the International Trade Commission following a patent infringement complaint by Paice LLC (the name an acronym for Power-Assisted Internal Combustion Engines), a hydrid technology company based in Maryland which owns what are rated as four of the most influential hybrid technology patents, and the Abell Foundation, a charity that supports progressive start-up businesses and which co-owns the patents. They allege that the vehicle manyfacturer is importing hybrid electric vehicles and components that infringe their patents. Section 337 of the Tariff Act 1930 prohibits the import of infringing products, and is often used by patentees as an alternative to litigation - although Paice have been down that road too a couple of years ago, and their claims were thrown out.
The investigation could result in Ford being prevented from shipping Mexico-made cars into the USA. As if making cars in Mexico was not already controversial enough!
Paice worked with Ford between 1999 and 2004, providing (according to Automotive News) "detailed modeling and component design" - which seems to fall rather a long way short of creating anything for which a patent might be granted. Perhaps the argument is that Paice's work had its own patented technology embedded in it: in any event, Ford eventually decided not to take a licence to use Paice's technology - and instead struck a deal with Toyota to use its technology. Paice has also been embroiled in litigation with Toyota, which it claims received its technology from Ford, and in 2010 Ford reached a settlement with Paice over that technology. Hyundai and Kia are also accused of infringements by Paice. Ford has also filed 25 legal challenges to Paice patents in the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Hybrid vehicle technology is going the same way as mobile phones - soon the companies involved will be spending more time suing each other for patent infringements than making cars.
Griffith Hack report http://db8fgso3tb3n4.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Griffith-Hack-Dec-2010-Report.pdf
Automotive News http://www.autonews.com/article/20170308/OEM/170309777/ford-faces-another-legal-challenge-over-hybrid-technology-patent
Paice press statement http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170308006138/en/Paice-Ford-Hybrids-Mexico-Banned-U.S