Following the success of the first AGS Commercial Risks and How to Manage Them Conference in July 2019, the conference was held on 22nd January 2020 at the Manchester Conference Centre. The conference was sponsored by Geotechnics, SOCOTEC UK, Geotechnical Engineering and Envirolab. The afternoon conference was attended by 60 delegates and following lunch and opportunity to network with the sponsors and attendees, Jo Strange (CGL), who was chairing the event gave the opening address.
Russell Jones (Golder Associates) started the afternoon speaking about ‘battle of the forms’, which arises when two businesses are negotiating the terms of a contract and one business provides an offer and then the other business provides a counteroffer. Russell concluded that the battle is usually ‘won’ by the party that fired the last shot!.
Hugh Mallett (BuroHappold Engineering and AGS Loss Prevention Working Group Leader) discussed the importance of defining scope and objectives in proposals and project reports by reference to real life case studies which led to dispute or claims and referred delegates to LPA 69 for further information.
Stephen Hargreaves (Griffiths & Armour) described several case studies based on insurance claims, showing that fundamental errors can equal high value disputes. Stephen advised on an “eyes wide open” policy to manage the risks around making assumptions.
Zita Mansi (Beale & Co) spoke about collateral warranties, emphasising that collateral warranties are new contracts with third parties. Zita informed the delegates the measures available to mitigate risk and the fundamental importance of limiting liability in such agreements.
After refreshments and further networking, Adam Gombocz (NHBC) discussed how NHBC adopt a proactive approach to managing risks on sites registered for Buildmark warranty. Through case studies, Adam explained what is to be avoided on residential developments.
Rachel Griffiths (Fugro) considered the important distinction between the ‘duty of care’ required in providing (a) services or (b) goods. Goods fall under a ‘fit for purpose’ requirement of the Sale of Goods Act. Whereas provision of services falls under a requirement for ‘reasonable skill and care’ under the Supply of Goods and Services Act. These standards are fundamentally different and consultants giving advice or providing designs should make sure that their contract specifically refers to “reasonable skill and care” and not to “fit for purpose”. To avoid any misunderstanding Rachel recommended that this clarity should be reiterated in AGS Member’s professional reports.
The final talk of the day was provided by Lee Beveridge (Environment Agency), who discussed the implications for Members of recent changes in Landfill Tax (see AGS Magazine March/ April 2019). Lee advised that the new rules were in effect now but could also date back to activities from 1st April 2018. Lee warned delegates that the HMRC were looking to enforce the new regime with considerable vigour.
The presentations from the conference (with approval from speakers) are now available on the AGS website together with numerous documents and up to date commercial guidance, freely available. The Legal Helpline also offers members 15 mins of free advice from Beale and Co.