There were interesting stories in the media recently, but I have been unable to find any traces of them on the websites of the relevant organisations. Their websites are rather good, and both organisations are media-savvy and tech-savvy, so the continuing absence of any trace of the stories is, to say the least, quite puzzling.
Update (12 March 2008): The National Consumer Agency (NCA), and National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI), for it is they, have still not added these developments to their website. Below the fold, find details of the tricks they are missing.
The first missed opportunity relates to the appearance of Anne Fitzgerald, Chief Executive of the National Consumer Agency (NCA) on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland programme on 28 February last (interview clip here) to discuss letters which the NCA had just written to three Irish airlines (Aer Arann, Aer Lingus, and Ryanair). According to her, the letters seek transparency in the airlines’ online sales, and raise the compatibility of various terms, conditions and (hidden) charges with the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations, 1995 (S.I. No. 27 of 1995). She said that the NCA had received strong legal advice that clauses precluding the recovery of taxes or charges, or imposing unreasonable administration fees for their recovery, are unfair (and thus rendered unenforceable by the Unfair Terms Regulations). She also said that the NCA felt that hidden charges are similarly unfair, and that they were therefore seeking transparency of charges on their websites. And she hinted strongly that if the NCA fails to get satisfaction from the airlines, the matter could ultimately end up in the courts.
Of course, none of this will come as a surprise to readers of this blog. I have already argued on this site that if an airline’s contract with its consumers contains clauses making taxes and charges irrecoverable, (or, what amounts to the same thing, imposing disproportionately high administration fees) such clauses are almost certainly unenforceable (on foot of the European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations, 1995 (S.I. No. 27 of 1995); and this is not the first time that the NCA has rattled its sabre at the airlines. And this all deserves lots of coverage, not only on RTÉ but also on the NCA website. However, so far as I can see, nothing about this has appeared either or on its related ConsumerConnect site. Of course, I have missed press releases about similar stories on their websites in the past, so the fact that I can’t find it doesn’t mean that it’s not there. But if it isn’t, that’s a shame, and suggests to me that the NCA are missing a trick.
The second missed opportunity relates to the report in yesterday’s Irish Times that Papers want Defamation Bill enacted (sub req’d). According to Carol Coulter:
The National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) have called for the speedy enactment of the Defamation Bill and a reconsideration of jury trials in libel cases in the light of the Martin McDonagh v Sunday World case. … [The NNI expressed] its “bitter disappointment” at the outcome of the case[,] … added that Irish law and procedures, with the exception of defamation, have undergone substantial reform[,] … [and concluded that this] “recent award bears no correlation to acceptable and appropriate values in contemporary society”.
(Update (11 March 2008): There is a similar story in today’s Irish Examiner.) As readers of this blog will know, I entirely agree with this position, and I think that (as with the NCA initiative above) this all deserves lots of coverage, not only in the Irish Times but also on the NNI website. However, so far as I can see, nothing about this has appeared there, though the fact that I can’t find it doesn’t mean that it’s not there. But if it isn’t, that’s a shame, and suggests to me that the NNI (like the NCA) are missing a trick.
After all, giving publicity to and building upon these kinds of developments are what such websites are for. Aren’t they?