The week’s news included; EU to ban eco-claims in ads without evidence, Uniqlo sues Shein for copying “Mary Poppins” bag, Justice Sec to reverse “effects” of Supreme Court litigation funding ruling.

Below are our top 10 stories that you need to know about. Be sure to check our twitter page, Facebook page and Instagram Page, for regular posts of important headlines. Get all the important stories and insights straight into your inbox by subscribing to our mailing list here.

Opinion articles of the week: 

  • BBC News – AI to hit 40% of jobs and worsen inequality, IMF says
  • ESportsinsider – What makes a video game an esport?
  • City A.M – The top three threats facing companies in 2024 – and how to prepare
  • BBC News – How AI is helping to prevent three buses turning up at once

1. EU CLAMPING DOWN ON GREENWASHING 

The EU is clamping down on advertisers making eco-friendly claims. A new directive will require companies that claim products are “environmentally friendly”, “eco”, or “biodegradable”, to provide evidence for these claims. Furthermore, if the company relies on carbon offsetting they will be banned from using terms such as “climate neutral” or “climate positive”. Carbon offsetting is where organisations give money to emission cutting projects to counter the carbon emissions they produce in their own processes. For example, where car makers claim they offset the emissions of vehicle production by planting trees. The EU claims these schemes mislead consumers about the true sustainability of products.

A recent Guardian investigation found that 90% of offsetting projects it sampled were worthless. Furthermore, products will need certification by the EU in order to be marketed as “environmentally friendly” or the like. The directive should be in place by 2026.

2. CMA WINS INFORMATION REQUEST APPEAL

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has won a legal case which grants it the power to demand evidence from foreign jurisdictions. The CMA is investigating the UK subsidiaries of car makers BMW and VW. During this investigation, BMW said the the CMA did not have the authority to oblige it to respond, as it is a foreign company. According to BMW, the CMA’s powers, outlined in section 26 of the Competition Act 1998, did not grant it that power to compel foreign companies to produce documents located overseas. The Competition Appeal Tribunal agreed with BMW but the CMA appealed. Last week, the Court of Appeal held that the CMA did have power to force foreign companies to provide documents from overseas. The court deemed that section 26 was intended to have “extraterritorial effect”. Furthermore, if it did not , there would be a huge limitation in the effectiveness of the CMA given the multi-jurisdictional nature of the companies it investigates. 

3. UNIQLO SUES SHEIN OVER COPYCAT MARY POPPINS BAG 

New year, New copyright infringement allegations. Shein is being sued by Japanese giant Uniqlo for selling replicas of its “Mary Poppins” bag. The bag is dubbed “Mary Poppins” because it can fit a deceptively large amount of items in it. It has become hugely popular on social media and now Shein has released its own version. Uniqlo claims Shein’s closely resembles its own and could harm its brand. The retailer has filed a lawsuit in Japan and demands Shein to stop selling the bag and is seeking damages. Uniqlo is Japan’s largest clothes retailer and posted 146.7 billion yen (£791m) in profit last quarter. 

4. JUSTICE SECRETARY TO REVERSE LITIGATION FUNDING RULING

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has pledge to reverse a recent controversial Supreme Court ruling on litigation funding. The Supreme Court ruled on a case last year that threw the litigation funding sector into jeopardy. It essentially held that litigation funding deals were no longer enforceable without meeting strict criteria. Our previous top 10 explains the case in detail. Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has said the “damaging effects” of the ruling will be reversed “at the first legislative opportunity”. Litigation funding deals often are the only way that individuals and smaller entities take on financially superior adversaries in court. Litigation funders bankroll lawsuits in return for an agreed percentage of the winnings. The announcement by the Justice Secretary has been welcomed by a number of lawyers.

5. FUJITSU TO COMPENSATE POSTMASTERS

The tech company at the centre of the postmasters scandal has confirmed its plans to compensate affected individuals. Fujitsu offered an apology to the postmasters and is cooperating with the UK public inquiry into the matter. Between 1999 and 2015 postmasters were sacked and prosecuted for embezzlement after the Post Office’s system showed missing funds. It transpired that Fujitsu’s Horizon IT system, introduced in 1999, was faulty and no money was stolen. In these 16 years however, over 900 postmasters were prosecuted. The government said that Fujitsu had a “moral obligation” to provide financial redress to victims. Emergency legislation will be brought in to expedite the exoneration of the wrongfully convicted postmasters.

6. SAINSBURY’S TO WIND DOWN BANKING BUSINESS 

Sainsbury’s is shutting down its bank and plans to focus on its supermarket business. Over the next few years, Sainsbury’s will undertake a “phase withdrawal” from the banking market. The supermarket has said it plans to concentrate on its core retail business following the launch of its “food first strategy”. Sainsbury’s opened its bank in 1997 in a joint venture with the Bank of Scotland. Sainsbury’s took 100% ownership of the bank in 2014. It currently services 1.9 million customers, offering loans, credit cards and savings accounts. No specific timeline for the closure has been revealed. The company confirmed that there will be no changes for now but it will inform customers in advance about any changes. Tesco is also plotting a sale of its banking business as supermarkets seek to step out of the market.

7. WIZZ AIR PAYS OUT OVER FLIGHT DISRUPTION

Budget airline Wizz Air has paid out £1.2 million to customers after failing to pay out for flight disruption. Wizz Air rejected 25,000 claims for passengers traveling to or from the UK and were ordered to review them by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).  6000 of these claims saw additional pay outs to customers. These are predominantly those who had to pay for new flights and accommodation due to disruption. Wizz Air said it has made amends to procedures and all payouts to entitled passengers have now been issued. 

Under UK law, passengers travelling to or from the UK are entitled to refunds or alternative flights where flights are cancelled by the airline. Passengers can also receive compensation if their flights are delayed.  Check out the CAA’s page on compensation for disruption here

8. TRAIN DRIVERS GO ON STRIKE

Train drivers are set to go on strike again as the disputes rage on. Aslef members will go on strike between Tuesday 30 January and Monday 5th February. Different operators will be affected each day. Drivers will also not work overtime between Monday 29 January and Tuesday 6 February. No strikes will take place on Thursday 1 February or Sunday 4 February. The dispute is over pay and working conditions. Aslef claim they are being offered downgrades to working conditions for a below-inflation pay rise. To date, drivers have been offered a 4% pay rise for 2 years.

The RMT, which represents other railway staff, agreed a deal for its members in November. Workers will receive a 5% backdated pay rise for 2022-2023. It is hoped a deal with Aslef can also be reached to bring an end to disruption to the railways.

9. APPLE OVERTAKES SAMSUNG

Apple has officially overtaken Samsung to become the world’s largest smartphone maker. According to new figures by the International Data Corporation (IDC), Apple now holds over 20% of the market compared to Samsung’s 19.4%. This marks the first year since 2012 where Apple has shipped more phones globally than Samsung. Apple sold 234 million phones last year. Xiaomi, OPPO and Transsion are the next three largest phone makers. These three have been making huge progress in emerging markets as they provide a more affordable option to Samsung’s premium priced phones. Overall however, demand for phones has fallen 3% globally as the cost of living crisis has hit consumer demand.

10. UK’S LARGEST NIGHTCLUB OWNER TO CALL IN ADMINISTRATORS

The largest nightclub owner in the UK is falling into administration. Rekom owns the Pryzm and Atik brands and operates 35 nightclubs in the UK. The cost of living crisis has significantly hit their finances. Students across the country have cut back on nights out due to the increased cost of living while overheads also increased. This sustained period of financial pressure has led to the company announcing that administrators will be called in. Management recognized that the company could not continue in its current form. Some clubs may be permanently shut. Administration will help the company restructure its business and debts.