BODIES representing consumers will be given new powers to take mass enforcement action against companies that violate buyers’ rights.
This move will allow non-profit organizations, including government regulators, to take action against mass consumer rights violations in this country and other countries in the European Union when the violations affect people here.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, who obtained cabinet approval to draft the new law, said it would make it easier for consumers to band together and seek redress when a large number of them were affected by a violation of their rights, either at home or in another European country.
This new law is an EU-wide response to recent mass abuses of consumer rights by private companies, such as the 2015 car emissions scandal and the 2017 mass flight cancellations.
It will allow multiple qualified cross-border entities to join forces to represent European consumers when they have been harmed by the same alleged infringement caused by the same trader in multiple Member States.
The move is based on a European Union directive.
The Tánaiste insisted that the new legislation would not impose any additional administrative burden on businesses and would not affect the vast majority of traders who treated their customers well.
“This new law will make it easier for consumers to band together and seek redress when a large group of them are affected by a violation of their rights, either at home or in another European country. It will allow a designated qualified entity to bring a company to the High Court on behalf of a group of individual clients,” he said.
People often feel intimidated and powerless by a large-scale violation of consumer rights, he said.
“By giving them the opportunity to act jointly with representation from a qualified entity, this new law will massively strengthen their position. Ireland does not currently have a collective redress mechanism.”
The new measure differs from the US class action law. Only certain unspecified nonprofit organizations can accept a case.
Non-profit organizations can apply to the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to be designated as qualified entities in order to benefit from the representative litigation mechanism.
If they are appointed, they can seek injunctive relief and redress from the High Court against a trader who has breached consumers’ consumer protection rights.
Mr Varadkar said the proposed legislation follows on from the Consumer Rights Act, approved for publication by the government last month, which extends rights to digital goods and services and makes fake reviews and other business practices illegal.
Prime Minister Robert Troy said the legislation would improve consumers’ access to justice, contribute to fairer competition and create a level playing field for companies operating in the internal market.
“It modernizes the current European injunction regime and aims to improve the tools to stop illegal practices. If, after implementation, the rights of a large number of consumers are infringed by the same business, a qualified entity can bring a representative action in the High Court on their behalf,” he said.
This would be a first in Irish law and would further strengthen consumer rights in Ireland and across the EU, Mr Troy said.
https://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/consumer-bodies-will-be-able-to-take-mass-enforcement-actions-41474922.html Consumer organizations will be able to take mass enforcement action