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Talking Business: New Year's regulations – get set for legal changes in 2016

Tom Leman, head of retail and consumer at law firm Pinsent Masons, tells you which legal changes you need to be aware of this year.

Here are our tips to ensure your business is ready for some of the changes on the legal and regulatory horizon:

  • EU trade mark rules are changing: check that all your brands, store get-ups and key products are protected. But don’t get conned by scammers sending fake trade-mark renewal demands from the “new” EU trade mark office.
  • National living wage (NLW): due to come into force in April 2016. There will be an increased budget for enforcement and increased penalties for non-payment of the national minimum wage and NLW. The overall maximum penalty of £20,000 per worker remains unchanged. Ensure your wage policies are compliant with the new rules, and review the impact on the employee wage bill and the business. 
  • BREXIT: no one knows if the referendum will result in Britain’s exit from the EU or what form that would take. Be prepared. Ensure as much as possible that contracts are “future proofed” against a BREXIT, such as currency issues; definition of the EU; or the option to renegotiate terms if the agreement becomes unprofitable on a BREXIT.
  • Stricter regulation of internet payments: while most businesses will plan to be ready for the EU Payments Services Directive PSD2 in 2017, in Germany similar rules to strengthen customer protection and security, and bring new requirements for internet payment providers, are already in effect, for example, the requirement for “strong customer authentication” has been introduced, requiring a two-factor process for payment, so a “one click” payment authorisation will not be sufficient. Online retailers with activities in Germany need to check that their systems and payment providers are up to date and compliant.
  • New EU General Data Protection Regulation: new EU rules on data protection are expected to be agreed and adopted in early 2016. Retailers should use the period before the rules come into force in 2018 to prepare, as the regulation will introduce a number of new requirements from a cyber-security perspective. For example, should you suffer a data breach, make sure you are ready to notify personal data breaches within 72 hours. Fines are up to €20m (£15.2m) or 4% of total worldwide annual turnover – avoid them by ensuring you are able to meet the new requirements.
  • Online retail: although the internet may not have borders, local regulations do impact online retailers. Many governments are planning to introduce rules to deal with online retailers in 2016, including in the UAE/Gulf region and in France. Seek local legal advice to ensure you comply.
  • Focus on use of store space: 2016 will see more focus on lifestyle spaces in stores, such as gyms, leisure facilities and workspaces, among others. Review your leases – check for any restrictions on changes to usage or sub-letting store space.

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