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Electronic Insurance Regulations Issued

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Insurance Authority recently published the Insurance Authority Board of Directors’ Resolution No. 18 of 2020 on Electronic Insurance Regulations dated 27 April 2020 (“the Regulation”). The first draft of these regulations was published in January 2019, and after public consultation and discussion, a revised draft was published in December 2019, which has now been finalised. The Regulations and the timing of it are very relevant in the current circumstances, i.e. the impact of COVID-19 and the social distancing measures by the government, marketing, and solicitation of insurance by physical means is at an all-time low.

The term electronic has been widely defined as anything relating to technology having electrical, digital, magnetic, wireless, visual, electromagnetic, automated, optical or similar capabilities. The scope of the Regulations extend to all electronic and smart insurance operations carried out on the internet address of the company, social media such as Facebook, Linkedin, multimedia such as YouTube, Instagram, blogs, applications such as google doc, Wiki, AI-based systems, text messages, instant chat channels, smart applications, etc.

All insurance companies and related businesses such as insurance agents, actuary, broker, surveyor, insurance consultant, carrying out operations through electronic mode, require prior approval from the Insurance Authority. The application for such approval must be accompanied by an action plan for electronic operations, approved by the Board, and contain analysis of the risk, projected volume and contingency plan for the electronic operations.

Life insurance policies with investment components cannot be transacted online, while the sale of life insurance policies with standard underwriting (less the investment component), such as term life is allowed. Health and general lines of business on property and liability risk, including marine cargo insurance can all be sold online and are subject to the Regulations.

The website of the insurance companies must be maintained by the IT department of the company, but if the management of such a website is being outsourced to a third-party, then prior approval of the Insurance authority must be obtained in this regard. Insurers currently use multiple online platforms for online marketing and selling, often procured through third-party entities. The intent of the Regulations is to capture and regulate, where possible all such third-party entities who are engaged in insurance distribution.

The Regulations also put much impetus on provisions of information security and also requires that storage of data must be in the UAE. It is however not clear whether the Regulations require any Cloud server to be based within the UAE.

In addition, the Regulations recognise that the electronic platforms and systems of the companies may not be developed enough to carry out these operations and hence allow outsourcing of electronic operations for this purpose. The Regulations also allow usage of third-party websites for sale of insurance but require the prior consent of the Insurance Authority to be obtained for any such arrangements.

The Regulations also recognise, for the first time, the “Price Comparison Websites” and interestingly state that only an insurance broker can deal with a price comparison website. The Regulations also require Price Comparison Websites to be registered with the Insurance Authority and a copy of the agreement signed between Insurance Broker and Price Comparison Websites must be shared with the Insurance Authority. The prerequisites for registration of Price Comparison websites has also been listed in the Regulations but state that the application for registration must be made in accordance with the applicable regulations, implying that the Insurance Authority may be issuing further regulation on Price Comparison Websites shortly.

The Regulations state that the provisions shall apply from the date of publication of Regulations in the official gazette, but also allow insurance companies and insurance-related professions a time period of 6 months from the date of publication in the official gazette to align their position and operations with the Regulations.

While the recognition of Price Comparison Websites is a step in the right direction from the UAE Insurance Authority given the global trends in this regard, the requirement for a Price Comparison Website to deal only through a broker creates an extra layer of regulatory requirement and therefore unnecessary costs, the benefit of which could have been passed on to end customers in the absence of such requirement. Nonetheless, insurance markets globally have noticed a surge in demand for insurance policies through online mode and therefore this Regulation brings much-needed clarity, which will help in further growth of the UAE insurance market.

Ashurst advises on the establishment of Oak National Academy

International law firm Ashurst advised on the launch of Oak National Academy, a virtual school established groups of schools and The Reach Foundation to deliver education remotely to the UK during the COVID-19 crisis.

The new initiative is supported by a range of organisations including Teach First, Google and the Department for Education.

Launched on Monday 20 April, this brand-new enterprise has been created by over 40 teachers from some of the leading schools across England, with government grant funding to support its start up. It will provide 180 video lessons each week, across a broad range of subjects from maths to art to languages, for every year group from Reception through to Year 10.

Ashurst advised Teach First and The Reach Foundation, both charitable entities to support teaching and education across the UK, on a pro bono basis on the IP and branding associated with the launch. This included advising on the availability and use of logos, trademarks, domain names and associated assets and the registration of various IP rights to ensure the protection of the brand and its associated goodwill. The team was led by IP partner David Wilkinson, associate Anouska Fabes and legal analyst manager Jessica Whitfield.

Anouska Fabes commented: “Oak National Academy is an inspiring project that demonstrates the power of collaboration during difficult times, and will provide access to valuable resources for those teachers, students and families in the UK in need of support and a helping hand. The Ashurst IP team are delighted to have worked with Teach First to contribute towards its launch.”

6 key ingredients of effective law firm press releases

As the media continues to evolve in this electronic age, newsrooms are shrinking or disappearing, the role of journalists is changing, and opportunities for publishing news online are proliferating. The type of information getting published – especially online – also is changing. A decade ago, the chances of getting a law firm press release published verbatim were almost nil. Today, with news and aggregate websites in abundance, wire services publishing on the Web, and more non-journalism-trained editors deciding what gets published, the tables have turned for the press release as a PR tool.

A press release is no longer a vehicle just for informing journalists (who, in the past, mostly cherry-picked the facts they needed from a press release to incorporate into their own stories). In many cases today, a press release is the complete story that your audience will see. That makes the stakes higher than ever before. With that in mind, consider these tips on key ingredients and useful elements to include when writing a law firm press release.

  • Include an attention-grabbing headline.
  • Include the most “newsworthy” information in the first two to three paragraphs – your audience may not read beyond that.
  • Emphasise what’s different about you, your firm or whatever news you’re communicating. Reporters love “firsts” and precedent-setting developments (if they are legit).
  • Insert web links to your law firm’s site and blogs, attorney biographies, and related external web pages. (Even if publishers use “nofollow” links that don’t pass link juice, you will still point readers to your firm’s website where they can further engage with your content.)
  • If there’s a related video, link to that also or embed it into the press release. YouTube and Vimeo players make it easy to copy embed codes.
  • For releases about attorneys, add links to their social media platforms (e.g., LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter).
  • Provide an email address and phone number for someone knowledgeable and responsive as a media contact.
  • Employ useful content. Great storytelling is what sells a release, and these add-ons and themes will help get reporters and editors invested in your news:
  • Provide statistics, if applicable, to add timeliness and credibility to your story.
  • Add local angles. For example, if a law firm has multiple offices, consider customising releases for each office with a different market (city) dateline. In each release, quote a local attorney/office head on firmwide stories. Consider other ways to localise your release to interest journalists in each city where you want coverage.
  • Try to pivot from a current event or story in the news. For example, for a press release about a new law firm office, juxtapose it against a recent story about a downturn in new business openings in the community.
  • Relate your news to current or emerging trends in the legal industry. Reporters often are interested in piggybacking on top of what’s on the cutting edge.
  • Analyse the impact of the news or development that your release covers. Don’t just report the news about you or your firm – explain how it may affect clients, the business community, other lawyers and law firms, and other key constituents.
  • Include at least one good quote from an attorney source or the subject of the release. This adds “color,” personalises the information, and breaks up the routine facts of “who, what, when, where and how.”

Don’t be intimidated by having to produce the perfect law firm press release every time out. By including as many key elements as possible, and hitting upon a couple of attention-grabbing content themes, you’re likely to have success in getting published and positively building the public reputations of yourself and your law firm.

Is NOW the right time to expand your business Internationally?

Expanding your business Internationally is a monumental task but, if done right, can be a significant driver of growth. We are proud to say that we now have coverage in 190 countries, with a small team and no outside funding.

Invest in a scalable infrastructure

Build a platform that is designed to scale from day one. For example, we made sure that Advisory Excellence was set up with infrastructure where it was easy to add new countries, and track KPIs globally.

A focus on marketing channels that can scale, such as Google, Youtube, Pinterest and Linkedin, can also prove useful in building a strong foundation for future growth. Whatever your budget, these platforms allow you to test the waters as knowledge of your market increases. As campaign metrics demonstrate positive growth, your company can expand budgets to grow reach Internationally.

Think globally, act globally

Being in hypergrowth mode is exhilarating but there are plenty of opportunities to learn from mistakes. When you scale very quickly, there is no time to micromanage locally. Only tailor locally what has been proven to make a significant impact.

Build a small but mighty team

Crafting a small but mighty team is key to moving forward in a positive direction. Even if there are only a small number of individuals, a dynamic team can move mountains when the focus is right. Create a high passion and energetic team which is invested in the future of the business.

If you instil one motto in your team, it should be: fail fast, learn and improve. We love trying new ideas and encourage the whole team to continuously test, especially when it’s outside their comfort zone. The only requirement we set is to approach it methodically, to document the results and to share learnings with the team.

Stay community-focused

Nurture your brand ambassadors; your first and most loyal members or customers will be your strongest voices if they can be involved. We’ve been around since 2013 and have built a community that continuously stays engaged. Listen to your members or customers, speak with them every week and make changes based on your insights. As a result of listening to our members, we decided to start hosting events. There is nothing stronger than a real-life experience and it really makes us stand out from the crowd in a competitive market.

Getting more feedback from your audience can push your business to new heights. We collaborate with our members, so a lot of our content is member-generated.

Work smart

Automate time-consuming tasks. We believe we have a strong proposition for individuals around the world and (while there have been many lessons along the way!) expanding into new markets has been one of the most rewarding things we have done.

Social media firms under scrutiny for ‘Russian meddling’

Facebook, Twitter and Google lawyers defended themselves to US lawmakers probing whether Russia used social media to influence the 2016 election.

The three firms faced hard questions at a Senate panel on crime and terrorism about why they missed political ads bought with Russian money.

Lawmakers are eyeing new regulations for social media firms in the wake of Russia’s alleged meddling in 2016.

The firms said they would tighten advertising policies and guidelines.

Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, asked Facebook – which absorbed much of the heat from lawmakers – why payment in Russian rubles did not tip off the firm to suspicious activity.

“In hindsight, we should have had a broader lens,” said Colin Stretch, general counsel for Facebook. “There are signals we missed.”

A day earlier Facebook said as many as 126m US users may have seen Russia-backed content over the last two years.

Lawyers for the three firms are facing two days of congressional hearings as lawmakers consider legislation that would extend regulations for television, radio and satellite to also cover social media platforms.

The firms said they are increasing efforts to identify bots and spam, as well as make political advertising more transparent.

Facebook, for example, said it expects to have 20,000 people working on “safety and security” by the end of 2018 – double the current number.

“I do appreciate these efforts, but I don’t think it’s enough,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota.

Ms Klobuchar has proposed legislation that she says would make social media firms subject to the same disclosure rules for political and issue pages as print, radio and television companies.

The companies said they would work with her on the bill, but did not say they would support it.

Senators questioned whether the firms are up to the task of weighing free speech and privacy rights against concerns over terrorism and state-sponsored propaganda.

“I think you do enormous good, but your power sometimes scares me,” said Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana.

What happened during the election?

Russia has repeatedly denied allegations that it attempted to influence the last US presidential election, in which Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton.

But Facebook revealed as many as 126m American users may have seen content uploaded by Russia-based operatives.

The social media company said about 80,000 posts published between June 2015 and August 2017 and were seen by about 29m Americans directly.

These posts, which Facebook says were created by a Kremlin-linked company, were amplified through likes, shares and comments, and spread to tens of millions of people.

That company, Internet Research Agency, was also linked to about 2750 Twitter accounts, which have been suspended, Twitter said.

The firm also said it had identified more than 36,000 Russian bots that generated 1.4m automated, election-related Tweets, which may have been viewed as many as 288m times.

Google also revealed on Monday that Russian trolls had uploaded more than 1,000 political videos on YouTube on 18 different channels. The company said they had very low view counts and there was no evidence they had been targeting American viewers.

Most of the posts focused on sowing political and social divisions, the firms have said.

The companies said they used a combination of staff and big data to police that content, disabling fake and spam accounts.

Key recent developments:

Nov 2016: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says “the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the (US) election in any way is a pretty crazy idea”
Aug 2017: Facebook says it will fight fake news by sending more suspected hoax stories to fact-checkers and publishing their findings online
Oct 2017: Google finds evidence that Russian agents spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads in a bid to sway the election, reports say
Oct 2017: Twitter bans Russia’s RT and Sputnik media outlets from buying advertising amid fears they attempted to interfere in the election

Ebay paid UK corporation tax of £1.6m in 2016

The UK arm of eBay paid only £1.6m in corporation tax last year, even though its US parent had total revenues from its UK operations of $1.32bn (£1bn).

Ebay’s UK accounts record only £200m in revenues, which came entirely from a Swiss parent firm, seemingly for acting as its advertising agency.

The company declined to explain how its UK revenues were not booked though its UK business. However, an eBay spokesman said its tax affairs were entirely legal.

“In all countries and at all times, eBay is fully compliant with national, EU and international tax rules including those of the OECD, including the remittance of VAT to the appropriate authorities,” he said.

The pre-tax profit eBay UK made on its revenues in 2016 was £7.7m, according to the accounts, and it was on this figure that the UK corporation tax was levied.

Ebay is a huge international business that makes money mainly from advertisers and the commission on sales made through its auction site.

The total revenues of $1.32bn that the parent US business generated from the UK included those from subsidiaries such as the Stubhub ticket exchange and Gumtree classifieds site.

Within the group, the UK arm of eBay is wholly owned by eBay International, which is based in Switzerland and is itself owned by eBay in the US.

The firm’s UK accounts describe the role of eBay UK as providing “services to eBay International by recommending market penetration and advertising strategies for the UK internal marketplace and related third party advertising sales in the UK, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Australia”.

The seeming ability of the company to shelter most its UK profits from the UK tax authorities raises again the ability of big international companies to route their revenues to the countries with the most favourable tax regimes.

This has led in the past few years to intense scrutiny of the tax practices of big firms such as Apple, Amazon, Google and Starbucks.

Ebay in the US, whose international revenues hit $9bn last year, acknowledged that its tax affairs were under scrutiny in several countries, which may leave it with more tax to pay.

“The material jurisdictions where we are subject to potential examination by tax authorities for tax years after 2002 include, among others, the US (Federal and California), Germany, Korea, Israel, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Canada,” its US accounts said.