COVID-19 Scams, Advice and Guidance
Face masks and face coverings
There are important differences between the types of face masks being used during the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak. There are:-
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Medical Devices such as respirator or surgical masks which protect the wearer (and for medical devices, the patient) against the virus and must be made to a high specification.
- Face coverings i.e. not anti-COVID-19 PPE or medical devices, including scarves and homemade versions made from t-shirts, handkerchiefs etc; which do not protect the wearer but can to some extent reduce the amount of virus that an infected person emits, thus providing some protection to others in proximity.
- All PPE that is intended to protect against COVID-19 coronavirus, including that sold to the public, must meet very high safety standards.
The recommendation from both the Scottish and UK Governments is for the public to wear face coverings in some enclosed public places. This does not mean wearing proper anti-COVID-19 PPE. Instead it refers to any low-specification face covering that can help reduce spread of the virus. These type of facial coverings will not protect the person wearing it.
Businesses must not sell low-tech face coverings as PPE or make any claims that such items provide protection for the wearer against COVID-19. Best practice at the present time is for businesses to explicitly state the limitations of such products when selling so that the buyer is in no doubt.
in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the UK Government has issued guidance to small and higher-volume businesses who are wanting to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE). The British Standards Institution has produced a useful guide to masks and face coverings for use in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cancelled bookings for accommodation and services
Many Highland tourist businesses face the problem of cancelled bookings. Consumers are unable to travel due to the COVID-19 restrictions and many businesses are forced to temporarily close. These are uniquely difficult times for Highland businesses, and we want to ensure that they are aware of all the options available to assist in these situations. We think that it is reasonable for businesses to make their customers aware of these options:
- If the consumer has paid using a credit card and the amount is over £100, they may be able to claim their money back from their card provider under “Section 75” equal liability rules .
- If the payment was by debit card, the consumer may be able to make a claim from their card provider under the banking system’s “Chargeback” provisions .
- The consumer may be able to make a claim on holiday insurance, e.g. an annual policy, more information is available from the Financial Conduct Authority .
- Any dispute that a consumer has with a financial company over insurance, credit cards or debit cards can be raised with the Financial Ombudsman Service . This is a free-to-use and highly regarded dispute resolution system.
- It may suit both consumer and business to arrange a rebooking for a later date.
- Detailed information for tourist businesses can be accessed from VisitScotland.
Closure of holiday accommodation
Emergency Regulations enacted to protect public health during the COVID-19 outbreak require many business premises to close during the emergency period. These include businesses consisting of the provision of holiday accommodation, whether in a hotel, hostel, bed and breakfast accommodation, holiday apartment, home, cottage or bungalow, campsite, caravan park or boarding house.
Accommodation providers are permitted to remain open in the following circumstances:
- to provide accommodation for any person who is unable to return to their main residence, uses that accommodation as their main residence, is moving house or attending a funeral;
- to provide services to the homeless;
- to host blood donation sessions;
- to provide accommodation for any purpose requested by the Scottish Ministers or a local authority, or;
- to provide information or services online, by telephone or by post.
Providers should carry out checks to ensure that these circumstances are met before allowing their premises to open.
Enquiries can be made to email@example.com
Hand sanitiser products (not soap-based etc.)
Hand sanitiser products are in huge demand and some products are no longer available. Demand has led to some businesses (e.g. spirit distillers) diversifying into producing hand sanitising products. Products which are manufactured with the final intention of "destroying, deterring, rendering harmless, preventing the action of, or otherwise exerting a controlling effect on, any harmful organism" are currently controlled under the European Biocidal Products Regulations 2012 under a category defined as Product-type 1: Human hygiene. Biocidal products in this group are used for human hygiene purposes, applied on or in contact with human skin or scalps for the primary purpose of disinfecting the skin or scalp.
Trading Standards enforce these regulations in shops, but the current rules surrounding the manufacture and approval of these products need to be checked with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The HSE has recently issued specific COVID-19 biocidal products advice to industry. Hand sanitisers made for your own personal use are excluded from the Regulation, however if it is supplied to third parties then the law applies, and advice should be sought from the HSE.
Soap-based or hand softener gels and creams with an antibacterial effect are regulated under cosmetic product regulations. Further advice has been issued by the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association.
Financial protection for small businesses
- Individuals buying goods or services over £100 and less than £30,000 using a credit card are given additional protection if there has been a breach of contract under “Section 75” equal liability rules.
Businesses who use ordinary (non-business) credit cards facilities may also benefit from the same protections even if it is in relation to items or services bought for the business.
Card users should speak to their provider if they wish to make a claim. If a business has a right to make a claim and this is not honoured by the card provider, small businesses may be able to raise this matter with the Financial Ombudsman Service .
The Scottish Government has also issued general advice to businesses.
The Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) are hosting a series of short webinars on a variety of topics to help businesses prepare in these unprecedented times. Catch up on the latest SBRC webinars and find future webinars on their upcoming events page.