Legal Seagull column: If it looks too good to be true, then it almost certainly is

Gary Rycroft
Gary Rycroft

I had a weekend away recently in the West Midlands. It was lovely weather but I didn’t get to see any of it.

I was inside for the whole two days at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre near Dudley filming the new series of the BBC consumer affairs programme, Rip Off Britain.

The Rip Off team took over an empty unit in the centre and turned it into a pop-up advice shop for the weekend.

I’m the resident ‘legal expert’ in the shop, so dealt with a range of queries from missing wills and house deeds, to solar panels not fitted properly and an investment scam involving land in Brazil.

Some of the people I helped in the shop were booked in advance so I had notice of what their legal problems were going to be.

But others (such as the Brazil query) just walked in, so the experience keeps me on my toes, especially as the advice given is filmed with one of the three main presenters who are Gloria Hunniford, Angela Rippon and Julia Somerville.

This year there will definitely be some film footage somewhere of me sweating profusely whilst searching ‘Brazil Land Registry’on my laptop.

I’ve popped up in all the series of Rip Off Britain since it started in 2009 and many of the legal problems which people encountered have some common theme.

One theme is not researching fully and taking proper advice before entering into a legally binding arrangement such as a contract or lease and another theme is ‘all that glitters is not gold’.

So if there is one piece of advice I can give to avoid having to meet me sweating in a pop-up shop in a random shopping centre it is “look before you leap”.

With any legal transaction, be it buying a product, contracting for services, buying a house or writing a will, make sure you research who you are dealing with, take proper advice (which almost certainly will not be the cheapest advice) and if it looks too good to be true then it almost certainly is.