Will my sat-nav be illegal?

Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q We’re finalising the arrangements for a month-long September motoring holiday in France and would like your advice about the use of sat-navs. We understand that sat-navs, including mobile phone applications, that identify the presence of speed cameras are illegal, but we can’t seem to get any reliable information.

JI (e-mail)

A The situation is a little confused as there is no common agreement between Britain and France on the use of GPS systems with speed camera detection.

First – to put your mind at rest. It will be illegal to drive a car in France from November if it has a GPS system of any kind that is switched on and can detect the presence of speed cameras.

As your holiday will be little more than a faded memory by then, you can rest assured you will not be pulled over by the gendarmerie, fined 1,500 Euros, (£1,200) and slapped with six penalty points on your licence.

It does however, have longer term implications for British motorists driving in France.

Cars on both sides of the channel are routinely fitted with GPS equipment as standard.

UK drivers who use GPS without speed camera detection will have nothing to worry about. If you are routinely stopped, the police will need to show just cause if you are required to confirm compliance.

Most GPS manufacturers are already ahead of the game. You can visit their website and deactivate the speed camera tracking system, and reactivate it again if required.

Although this is not altogether a very satisfactory state of affairs, it is at least possible to get around the problem.

Q I am taking a case to the small claims court about a problem used car. Will I need a solicitor to represent me?

ME (e-mail)

A No, you do not have to employ a solicitor to prepare or present your case, and you won’t be disadvantaged if you represent yourself.

The small claims procedure is specifically designed for you to take your own case to court and the rules of evidence are simplified.

Perhaps I should warn you that going to court involves negotiating your way around a number of procedure rules, and legal representatives can use them to drag out the proceedings or try to limit the scope of evidence, particularly if you are relying on any expert witnesses.

If your case is not straightforward, then getting a solicitor to help you deal with the nuts and bolts of the process could be very helpful.

Q I’ve had a change of plan due to an emergency and have had to cancel a hotel booking. The hotel is demanding I pay for the room. Can they do that?

NM (e-mail)

A Yes, they can. You made a contract with them and you’ve broken it. In that case they’re entitled to payment.

If it was an early cancellation then they may be able to offer the room to another client. In that case the compensation will be limited to the forfeiture of your deposit.

SMALL PRINT

Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, e-mail him at richardjthomson1@sky.com and wherever possible he will try to provide practical assistance. Unfortunately he cannot guarantee to respond to every letter or e-mail. Richard Thomson welcomes letters from readers on consumer issues. Replies are intended to give general help or advice, not a complete statement of law.