In the name of Haribo you die


A long, long time ago, someone in a country far, far away developed a new sweet, lets call it Haribo. People were so impressed with the new soft delicacy they felt that they needed to tell everyone about it. By peaceful means a trend developed. Soon, the creator saw Haribo as means to power and domination. A leadership developed, devoted to the expansion of the sweet. Those who did not fancy it were put to the sword. Appreciation for it spread, by choice or compulsion.

Fast forward to the modern era. There are millions devotees of the sweet, billions even. As new flavours were developed factions appeared, some are devoted to the strawberry ones, some to the peach ones, there is a small minority of deviant cola lovers. While the vast, vast majority of Haribo devotees are peaceful in their enjoyment of the sweet, some are more forceful in their view that everyone should adopt it as their one and only desert choice.

Now, historically, things are way more complex than simple choices over your favourite flavour. Favourite sweets are laden with politics and sectional interests. There have been millennia of oppression, poverty, discrimination over one’s sugary delight choice. Yet a strange thing has happened. Young men, from counties where their love of Haribo is unrestricted, have become so upset about perceived injustice to other Haribo lovers that have decided to kill those who do not like Haribo. They have become radicalised it is said. To make matters worse, a lot of countries have elevated their love of Haribo to an official creed and seek to promote it. One of those is a radical band of very hard-core sweet lovers, who urge all Haribo devotees worldwide to kill those who fancy other sweets.

Radical Haribo lovers are now blowing up stuff left and right, in countries officially devoted to Haribo, and in others too. What is one to do?

After a series of recent attacks, non-haribo loving nations have declared themselves to be in a state of war with the Haribo lovers wishing to kill in its name.  But how does one wage war against a radical idea? Is it sufficient to say invade the most Haribo-mad nations and remove from power those who advocate sugary terrorism? How will that help, when the Haribo fighters abroad are actually natives of non-haribo nations?

Is this all a bit too convenient, people say? Why are we so outraged when some Haribo lovers blow up some kids (without asking them what is their favourite sweet moreover) in airports in marmite loving nations, and we are not equally outraged when Haribo strawberry flavour lovers blow up the kids of peach flavour lovers? Could this all be the conspiracy of ice-cream makers, to make us fight each-other while they take over the sweets market? Could it be the fault of those health food fanatics that admit no love of anything sugary?

Is this the fault of the Haribo loving community itself? Some say that all this horrible stuff taking place everywhere, all the damn time, is giving Haribo (as a sweet concept) a bad name. Admittedly if people are willing to come kill you if you write a book criticising Haribo, or draw a cartoon of the Haribo creator, or say you don’t like Haribo, or whatever it is that some Haribo lover despises, then there might be a problem with Haribo itself?

What to do?

Could we just say, in non-Haribo devoted countries, that enough with this shit, next time you damn crazy Haribo lovers kill someone on account of your obsession with sugary deserts we will damn drop an A-bomb on the headquarters of the damn Haribo obsessed shit-hole where your leadership is celebrating these atrocities?

This, sadly, would not work. It has been tried in the past. When groups of liberation fighters (incidentally also Haribo lovers) were sending missiles to their neighbours (jam lovers), the jam guys levelled their villages, even waged some intense war campaigns bombing the shit out of their schools and hospitals and the like. This seems to have led to no resolution to the regional Haribo-jam conflict.

A long time ago, a group of particularly nasty jackbooted marshmellow lovers almost conquered the world. They had the habit of executing everyone living in villages where an attack on their troops generated from. This sort of collective punishment however led to no end to marshmellow resistance, and resulted in the eventual demise of the mustachioned leader of that particular band of sweet lovers.

Nuking places in reprisal to Haribo atrocities is such a powerful image, and so appealing, someone might sooner or later actually do it. It will nonetheless lead many, many more Haribo fanatics to carry out more and more of the damn Haribo related atrocities that we are trying to prevent in the first place.
Lets do this instead.  We will not ban love of Haribo, in all its flavours, in non-Haribo nations. But we will expect Haribo lovers to finally do something about the fanatical elements of their community. We will make sure that when whole states who love Haribo celebrate the atrocities in its name against us, we will remove from power the sugar crazies. We will try to do this without vaporising everyone around, but shit will get nasty for our troops and their citizens.

We need this to stop, really. We are sick of reading about Haribo and worrying about getting killed every time we get out of the house because some god-damn crazy sweet fanatic may think this is a good day to blow up some piece of public infrastructure. And hear this Haribo lovers, unless this shit stops, someone less accepting of different flavoured sweets will come along and start dropping the bombs, and we will all be in a worse place, sugar lovers or not. Take your sense of bloody injustice and your fanatical sugar opinions someplace else, don’t blow my kids up because you are a medieval loving, half retarded, sweet obsessed lunatic.



PS. Haribo™ had nothing to do with the writing of this satirical piece. I in fact don’t like them, maybe the cola ones, just a bit.


Stamp Duty Land Tax and foreign property


The Budget announcement yesterday brought us a gift, a new stamp duty charge for second homes in the UK.

Those of you struggling to get on the property ladder (or stool in my case), may have come near a stroke when you heard about an extra charge for those who have second homes.

Yes, you heard it right, an extra 3% on top of existing rates for those having second homes. This means that if you try to buy a property at £550k (not much in London), and you own another property, your stamp duty will jump from £17.500 to £34.000 on April 1st. How is that for an April’s fool joke? Only it isn’t a joke.

Are you subject to the tax if you own a home in the village in Greece (inherited) or a small holiday flat in Spain?

There is a lot of contradictory information out there, HMRC says:

If, at the end of the day of the transaction, an individual owns 2 or more properties and has not replaced their main residence, the higher rates will apply.

There are however conditions

Condition C – the purchaser owns an interest in another dwelling which has a market value of £40,000 or more and is not subject to a lease which has more than 21 years to run at the date of purchase of the new dwelling; and

Conditions D – the dwelling being purchased is not replacing the purchaser’s only or main residence.

If you are permanently resident in the UK, in rental accommodation which is your permanent home and are trying to buy, it looks likely you will be caught by this.

Should you have that stroke then? Not just yet. Are you sure your Grandma’s flat is worth more than 40k? Perhaps not. How do you prove it? Will HMRC ask say the Greek tax office that works on property valuations from 10 years ago that are now 40% above market value? Or can you ask a local estate agent?

I have my team of lawyers looking at this and will let you know as soon as I hear anything useful. Look at the bright side, this change will ruin what is left of the buy-to-let market, which may bring prices down a notch.

Good house hunting!


We hope we never have a dispute



“We hope we never have a dispute, but if we do, we agree to binding individual arbitration and not to sue in court in front of a judge or jury. Class action lawsuits, class-wide arbitrations, private attorney-general actions, and any other proceeding where someone acts in a representative capacity aren’t allowed.”

 Wait, what? You are likely to have seen this message, or something like it when you upgraded Windows or installed your new storage software, but what does it mean? If you are in Europe nothing you need to worry about imminently, if you are in the US on the other hand, rather a lot.

Depending on where they are based, a consumer who has had their laptop damaged by a defective upgrade will have to bring any compensation claim to an arbitral tribunal, and not the local court, if they had accepted the notice containing the above clause prior to the installation. Arbitration is a method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that blocks access to the courts and entrusts consideration of claims to privately appointed tribunals. While this is based on consent by both parties and is common in commercial and trade deals, there is concern about the extension of the practice to cover every day consumer grievances. The reason is that consumers are less well informed, less likely to read the T&Cs containing the clauses, and less likely therefore to genuinely consent to losing access to courts and the opportunity of joining class actions. 

This article discusses the recent spread of mandatory consumer arbitration clauses and reflects on their consequences in the US and Europe in light of the TTIP negotiations and the possibility of Brexit.

Is mandatory arbitration in consumer cases legal?

In the USA yes. The US Supreme Court has accepted the validity of these clauses at the expense of consumers in recent decisions addressing the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which makes agreements to arbitrate valid, irrevocable, and enforceable. In a 2012 case the Supreme Court held that the FAA statute likewise trumps other federal laws, again subordinating a consumer’s ability to pursue a statutory right or cause of action to respecting arbitration agreements on their terms. This decision as noted by one of the judges in the minority, threatens to make arbitration a mechanism that can easily block the vindication of meritorious federal claims and insulate wrongdoers from liability. In a  2015 case, another minority opinion suggested that it has become routine for powerful economic enterprises to write into their standard form contracts with consumers and employees “no ­class-action” arbitration clauses.

The EU position:

The EU seeks to promote use of ADR. Its various types ranging from ombudsmen to negotiation, mediation and arbitration are well established across the continent, and especially here in the UK. Nonetheless, EU legislation prohibits mandatory consumer arbitration clauses. Of course a consumer and supplier can choose to arbitrate a dispute, but this can happen only after the dispute has arisen via a separate agreement. This is very different from the US position described earlier.

According to Directive 2013/11, the EU law which aims to promote the use of ADR, arbitration provisions will not apply in cases where the trader initiates a claim. It seems to be the intention of the EU-legislator to expressly exclude pre-dispute arbitration clauses. Further, arbitration is limited to actions in contract (with the exception of non-economic services of general interest), excluding actions in tort and restitution. Injunctions against illegal behaviour of traders sought by consumer associations are also excluded. The reason for this ‘distaste’ towards consumer arbitrations is the Unfair Terms Directive 93/13, which forms the basis of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 in the UK. A consumer cannot be drawn into arbitration against his will because the clause would be regarded as unfair. Unfair terms in contracts are invalid and do not bind the consumer even if the remainder of the contract is operational. 

Why should we care then?

The reason why the evolution of the law in the US is worrying for us here in Europe is two-fold. First, we are discovering that the attempt to harmonise standards in order to improve trade through the TTIP negotiations risks bringing over a lot of unpleasant practices from across the pond. The main concern with dispute resolution under the TTIP is currently on investment arbitration between corporates and states. Yet, the emphasis on the big disputes may lead lesser things, like consumer arbitrations, to pass under the radar. There is no official discussion to date of importing mandatory consumer arbitrations with the TTIP, but one should not be surprised if this aspect of ‘harmonisation’ joins the debate in the coming months.

Second, this is of domestic significance in the UK in light of the EU Referendum. The Leave campaigns are highlighting ‘ending the supremacy of EU law’ as a reason to leave the Union. Yet EU law shields us, citizens and consumers from a series of major and minor evils. Amongst the countless examples of how EU law protects consumers and workers, not being dragged in front of a tribunal when the new smartphone sets fire to your desk is a good one.