The Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court ruling that consumers who had entered into solicitors’ conditional fee agreements in a community centre rather than the solicitors’ office (a location jointly agreed because of the large numbers attending) were not protected by the Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work etc. The court had to decide whether the conditional fee agreements had been made, in the words of the 2008 Regulations, “during or after an excursion organised by the trader away from business premises”.

The 2008 Regulations provided the purpose of protecting the consumer in respect of contracts negotiated away from business premises. Lewison LJ referred to the Recitals of the Directive emphasising that “the mischief against which the consumer is to be protected is the element of surprise and unpreparedness”. The Court of Appeal considered that the committee that initiated and organised the meeting were representing the consumers rather than acting as agents for the solicitors. Secondly, the court did not consider that the CJEU’s reference in Travel Vac SL v Sanchis (Case C-423/97) [1999] 2 CMLR 1111 to “a certain distance”, regarding an excursion, could be taken to mean the same as “any distance however small”. The fact a consumer leaves home in order to meet a trader away from the trader’s business premises does not, without more, amount to an “excursion”. Third, there was no element of surprise about the meeting. In such circumstances the meeting was not an “excursion organised by the trader”.