Preparing for a drive across the Continent

Questions over QA’s ability to staff theatres

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

Q I’m planning to drive to Germany via France, Belgium, and Holland, to spend Christmas with some friends. I’ve also bought a sat nav with European mapping and a speed camera indicator. Is this legal to use on the continent, and what else will I require to meet continental driving requirements?

RE (internet)

A You’ll need a warning triangle, headlight converter stickers, high visibility jackets (for use if there’s an accident) a medical kit, and for Germany winter tyres are obligatory.

It’s not a bad idea to carry a small spade or shovel in the boot. Don’t forget to buy European breakdown cover. At around £60 from the RAC it’s worth every penny for the peace of mind.

As long as you stick to a bog standard sat nav it should be fine. In France the use of active radar detection devices will get you into serious trouble with the law, and don’t be surprised if you end up on the receiving end of a swingeing fine.

Q I’m looking forward to spending my first Christmas in Sydney, Australia with my daughter. The travel agent told me I should obtain an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) before I go, which will cost me an additional £13. A friend has told me this is unnecessary, and I can get the visa for free. Who is right please?

PS (internet)

A There are conditions, but I suspect your friend is on the right track.

If you plan to stay in Australia for less than three months, you can take advantage of the free online eVisitor visa arrangements.

You can only apply online by going to and download the application form. Wing it back, and within hours you’ll receive confirmation that the visa has been granted. Don’t forget to take a copy of the confirmation with you.

It’s linked to your passport details so when you hit immigration at Kingsford Smith airport immigration staff will scan your passport which also confirms you have the correct entry visa permission.

The eVisitor scheme is only available to nationals of EU states, and is not available to anyone living in Britain on a British Subject, or Overseas Citizen passport.

Q I have just acquired a buy-to-let property, took a deposit from my first tenants, and put it into a savings account. I’ve now been told this is probably illegal. Can you confirm please?

DN (internet)

A If you take any money in the form of deposit from your tenants then as a landlord you are legally obliged to place it into a government-backed scheme.

Failure to follow this procedure could lead to problems when you come to end an assured short-hold tenancy, and you try to serve a Section 21 notice in accordance with the Housing Act 1988.

The Housing Act 2004 could also be invoked by an aggrieved tenant, who could bring a claim against you for a refund, plus punitive damages.


Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, e-mail him at 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.