In this week's Retail & Consumer bulletin, we look at the litigation trends emerging as a result of Covid-19, and the new rules relating to face coverings.

Emerging tech related litigation trends

A rise in tech related issues given the marked increase in importance and reliance of technology to businesses' operations and sales:

  • Emerging issues in transformation / technology projects
    • COVID-19 has led clients to pause, reshape or accelerate projects depending on strategic need and budgetary factors
    • Advice required on:
      • variation, suspension or termination of such projects
      • obligations to pay milestone payments
      • ownership and usage rights in software and/or databases they have helped to develop
      • Steps to help protect their position (e.g. responsibility for additional costs, scope requirements or delay)
  • Responding to IT supplier's licensing and software audits:
    • COVID-19 may have significantly changed a client's use, volume and locations (flexi/remote working) which means that the number of licences, or their terms, may no longer be adequate.  
    • Relevant to all R&C sector clients who use/deploy software
    • Value of software licences (and alleged deficits) can often run into £millions
  • Data related issues
    • COVID19 has increased the risk profile due to: expansion of remote working; new technologies introduced at speed; increased demand on existing technologies; and reported increase in third party malicious attacks
    • Reviewing data management and data breach response policies to ensure still fit for purpose given evolving work protocols
    • Responding to Data breaches which are on the rise both as a result of an increase in malicious third party attacks and a higher risk of inadvertent errors by internal


  • Overview of the new rules 
    • From 24 July, wearing a face covering in shops and supermarkets in England will be mandatory
    • The rules will be enforceable by the police
    • Those who do not comply facing fines of up to £100. 
    • It is already compulsory to wear a face covering on public transport in England.
    • Exceptions will exist for children under 11 and those with certain disabilities. 
    • In addition, the rules will not apply to retail staff at work.
    • Aside from the intended health benefit the hope is that it will give people confidence to visit retail sites again.
  • Enforcement
    • Retail workers will be encouraged to prompt customers to comply, but will not be expected to enforce the rules.
    • Concerns have been raised about the practicalities of enforcing the new regulations.
      • How do you deal with customers refusing to wear face coverings?
      • Have you set an agreed policy and put guidance in place for staff members dealing with those who refuse?
      • How do you deal with concerns of increased violence towards staff?
      • Do you make face coverings available for customers who forget to bring one?
      • If the supermarket isn't responsible for enforcing customers to wear a face covering, how will the £100 fines be issued in practice? 
    • Increased customer restrictions are likely to cause tensions and this should be reflected in updated risk assessments
    • It will be necessary to consider other control measures in place to mitigate against the risk of violence and to ensure staff safety, e.g. increased security 

Key Contacts

Lauren Hamilton

Lauren Hamilton

Partner, Dispute Resolution
London, UK

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David Young

David Young

Partner, Health & Safety

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