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 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 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.