the Irish for rights

New Bills

Leinster HouseI dread the postman in the morning, and the bills that he brings. So I’m not going to do that to you. Instead, this post is about the Bills that were published by the government this week. The first was the Finance Bill, 2007, giving effect to last December’s Budget, which I shall leave to the accountants and tax experts. But I can’t resist an anecdote. A radio vox pop on Newstalk106 last December asked people what they knew of the Book of Estimates (which had been published the week before the budget); one woman answered: “It’s in the Bible”! (Numbers? Estimates? It’s all the same to me …).

Of more interest from the perspective of this blog are the other three Bills published this week: the Consumer Protection Bill, 2007, the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2007, and the Statute Law Revision Bill, 2007.

The Consumer Protection Bill, 2007 is set fair to be a major piece of legislation (and is the subject of an excellent piece by Paul Cullen in yesterday’s Irish Times). If (and, one hopes, when) enacted, it will control various prohibited, unfair, misleading and aggressive commercial practices against consumers (including pyramid promotional schemes) and provide consumers with a wide-ranging remedy in damages. It will establish the National Consumer Agency on a statutory basis, double its funding, and provide it with wide-ranging statutory powers to enforce consumer rights. Moreover, it will make consumer protection law more accessible by replacing a patchwork of statutes and statutory instruments reaching back as far as 1887 (though it is a pity from this perspective that it didn’t incorporate, restate and expand the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980). This Bill must be given an entirely unqualified welcome, and wished good speed through the Oireachtas (Parliament) on its journey towards enactment.

The lot of consumers (of telecoms services) will also be improved by the enactment of the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2007 published yesterday. If enacted, it will increase Comreg‘s enforcement and investigation powers, doubly important in the light of this week’s decision of the EU’s Court of First Instance (astutely noted on EU Law Blog) that Wanadoo (since taken over by France Télécom) had acted anti-competitively by engaging in predatory pricing in the French internet market). Moreover, of particular interest to those of us with .ie domain names, it will amend section 31 of the Electronic Commerce Act, 2000 to transfer responsibility for the oversight and management of the Irish internet domain name .ie from IEDR to Comreg. Given the few friends IEDR seem to have, I’m sure someone in the Irish Blog O’Sphere (thanks to Daithí for the phrase) must already have blogged about this, but I can’t find anything, so if there’s something out there, please direct me towards it.

Updates: There are good discussions of the Bill in ElectricNews.net and by Barry O’Halloran in the Irish Times. John McCormac on whoisireland has written an extremely interesting and very detailed post on the IEDR issue. Required reading, methinks. And IEDR seem to have taken some pre-emptive action; according to a report in the Sunday Business Post, (following a 20% cut in charges at the end of 2005) they cut the cost of a .ie domain name by a further 13% last week. Long may that trend continue. As the Post says:

Proponents of the dot.ie domain say that it discourages spam and cyber squatting, and reassures customers and clients of the legitimacy of the domain owner’s business.

I couldn’t possibly comment. Finally, this week (at long last!) saw the publication of the Statute Law Revision Bill, 2007, which was announced by the Toaiseach (Prime Minister) last month. I welcomed this development here at the time, and (as Daithí pointed out) though the Bill was not available electronically at the time, it is now.

Four Bills in one week, including a give-away Budget and two Bills which aim to improve the lot of consumers. My, but the government are being busy, aren’t they? Perhaps there’s an election due.

7 Responses to “New Bills”

  1. Daithí says:

    With regard to IEDR, it’s not as exciting as you would think. The substantive change is simply to transfer the oversight responsibility for IEDR from the Minister (currently the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources) under s 31 ECA to Comreg. However, the interesting difference is between the original proposal in DMCNR’s consultation and what’s emerged. In short (I should probably blog this in more detail) what has emerged in this bill is a more detailed set of issues to be covered in regulation, coupled with a more robust insistence that it actually happen this time (the s 31 Ministerial powers never having been exercised).

    I had a theory on IEDR vs Government and its connection with (of all things) the Official Languages Act. Jumping ahead, though, the passage of this act would seem to make it easier for Ireland/.IE to break bread with ICANN and sign up for real with their new-model ccTLD arrangements.

    Incidentally the original proposal to amend s 31, included in the consultation mentioned above, was in the 2005 Electronic Communications (Misc Provision) Bill – it certainly is taking its time. Given that I was writing about Ministerial threats to use the s 31 power three years ago (and citing Antóin as an authority!), this one will continue to run and run.

  2. Eoin says:

    Well, yes but no but yes (in true Little Britain fashion). Yes, the Bill will effect a change of regulator (Comreg for Minister) rather than a change in registry. But no, I don’t think that it’s not exciting; rather, I think that a change of regulator could bring about a change in policy; and I think that any such change in policy can only be to the benefit the consumer (in this case, me!). But yes, I agree that it could all have been so different, had earlier proposals been enacted. Nevertheless, on balance, I think that this is a good thing.

  3. Daithí says:

    Indeed. It’s interesting that the responses to the Department’s consultation weren’t published (as far as I can see); normal practice is to stick these on the website as a matter of course (although I do remember noting at the time that circulating the heads so openly was relatively uncommon). However, for now I think the clear conclusion that can be drawn from the detailed language that emerged is that DCMNR is anxious to see that something happens; what that something is is less clear.

  4. […] did comment on Eoin’s post, saying that the difference was that “what has emerged in this bill is a more detailed set of […]

  5. […] the European Consumers’ Organisation (BEUC)), and the Consumer Protection Bill, 2007 (noted here) wends its way through Committee stage in the Dáil (just in time for enactment before the general […]

  6. […] have blogged already (here and here) about the Statute Law Revision Act, 2007. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the […]

  7. […] to my three posts on the Statute Law Revision Act, 2007 (also here), I note that the second stage of the […]

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Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I'm Eoin O'Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie - the Irish for rights.

"Cearta" really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

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