Every day here at Young Citizens, we’re telling all who’ll listen about how important it is that young people understand how the law works.  It’s not just about encouraging them to respect the law.  It’s also about them knowing how the law can protect them when things – big or small – go wrong.  Over the last few months, I’ve experienced for myself how the law gives us rights – and how we can easily be short-changed if we don’t know how to exercise them.

Last summer I booked and paid for a hire car, using an online car rental site.  I turned up at the allotted time to pick up the car, with all the paperwork requested.  But the car company had introduced a new online identity check system – and that system couldn’t confirm my identity, and they wouldn’t give me the car.  Frustrating as this was, I accepted that as it was their car and as they couldn’t be sure I was who I said I was it was reasonable not to give me the car.

Claiming money back can be easy, but you need to know what your rights are, and have the confidence to assert them

But, of course, I wanted a refund.  I’d paid for a service which hadn’t been given.  I tried on several occasions to persuade the company behind the online car rental site to refund the money I’d paid – but they wouldn’t.  Eventually, I took out a court claim to get my money back (what used to be called – and people still know it as – ‘going to the Small Claims Court’.  The outcome: I got all of my money back, plus the costs.

My point about this is that it shows why we all need to have basic legal capability: to understand our rights and responsibilities, to understand when we face a legal issue, and to know what to do about it when we do; above all, to have the confidence not to be put off.  The process is actually very simple and can be done mostly online, but it still involves filling in a form, and I imagine of those who even start, many will give up half way through.  Whether it’s an online car hire that goes wrong, or returning a pair of jeans that don’t fit, or getting your deposit back when a tenancy comes to an end – if we know our rights and how to exercise them, we’ll have the confidence to stand up for ourselves.

At Young Citizens, our passion is helping all young people to claim their place in society as equal, active citizens.  They cannot do that without developing basic legal understanding such as this. I’m personally pleased I've got my money back. But more importantly, it has reminded me again how important legal education is for all young people.

If you are teacher looking to engage young people about the law then we can help. We've created a suite of legal topics to help show young people how the law exists to protect them. There's even a unit on Consumer Law!

Check out our interactive, high-quality (free and paid) legal resources. 

Explore the resources