News & Events
As the public take their first tentative steps back to pubs, bars and restaurants, if you are an owner of one of these businesses, you are faced with significant challenges in order to comply with guidance and ensure your operations are as ‘COVID-19-safe as possible.
From a legal perspective, there are many aspects of reopening after lockdown that businesses in your sector may have overlooked, particularly where they have made fundamental changes to their operations to adapt to the current climate.
Here, Marie Kell, Head of our Commercial Law team, runs through some of the key considerations and steps that she is advising business owners in this sector should take in order to protect their contractual position.
Check your Contracts
If you are changing how your business operates due to COVID-19, whether it’s your product offer, how you operate, or your your suppliers it’s really important to review all of your existing contracts and make sure that they are updated accordingly.
It may be that you need to enter into formal contract variations to ensure that the operative provisions are updated to reflect the new reality. It may also be that new contracts are required such as on-line trading terms and conditions if the business has moved from simply a physical offering to an on-line capability.
Review your Terms and Conditions
As noted previously we are seeing more and more businesses moving their operations online during this crisis but many have failed to review their terms and conditions.
It may be that your business is now taking on-line payments or offering services on line and accordingly new terms and conditions will need to be prepared.
It also may be that you wish to draw certain terms to the Customer’s attention prior to a visit that previously were not applicable. For example do you need to notify the Customers as to what the new offering will be and do you need the Customer to agree to behave in a certain manner. For example to comply with social distancing. You may also wish to consider reserving a right for yourself to ask a Customer to leave if they do not comply with the requirements that you have set out to them in advance.
All of these points should ideally be addressed to protect your business in the new climate.
Think about your Data Handling
Various businesses like yours are changing how they operate and are now using systems that were never required in the past. For example, you may, like many pubs and bars, now have to collect customer data in a way that you have never been required to do in the past. This means that you are now Data Controllers of your Customers’ personal information.
Another example would be if you run a restaurant, as you may be requiring Customers to place orders in advance on-line and it is unlikely that you will have existing Privacy Policies in place to allow you to do this. It is of vital importance that all businesses comply with the Data Protection Requirements, and accurate and appropriate Privacy Policies will be required to do this.
There could also be the temptation for businesses to use the customer data they have collected for marketing purposes, but this would require distinct consents. It is a complicated area and getting the right advice and guidance now will help you streamline your procedures and ensure you are legally compliant from the beginning of this new phase of operations, which is likely to continue for some time yet.
In Conclusion – Review your operations now and protect your business
There are many aspects of commercial law that businesses in this sector should consider as they reopen following lockdown. We are already seeing cases where consumers are exhibiting concerns about the handling of their data and, on this matter alone, the stakes are high if breaches are reported and proven.
Businesses are showing innovation and ingenuity in a great many sectors as they have adapted to the crisis so that they can continue to trade successfully. However, from our experience working in this sector, we know that for many businesses their legal documents have lagged behind and this can create new risks.
It is of vital importance that all businesses are legally compliant and protected as they move forward and especially in this sector, which has seen so many changes to the way in which it can operate. Our advice is to review what you do, and how you do it, to make sure you are compliant. Getting the right advice now will help protect your business today and moving forward in these challenging times.