Seanad Éireann - Volume 186 - 14 February, 2007

Consumer Protection Bill 2007: Committee Stage.

Section 1 agreed to.

SECTION 2.

Government amendment No. 1:

In page 10, lines 27 and 28, to delete all words from and including “any” in line 27 down to and including “profession” in line 28 and substitute the following:

“any service or facility provided for gain or reward or otherwise than free of charge”.

  Mr. Martin: The amendment seeks to close off a possible loophole in the Bill as it applies to pyramid schemes. The original wording, “any service or facility provided in the course of a trade, business or profession”, might have proved problematic in the context of schemes. As pyramid schemes are unlawful, there can be no legitimate trade, business or professional pyramid scheme promoter or operator. Most of those involved in recent schemes appear to have been involved in a capacity incidental to their normal trade, business or profession.

I am mindful of the difficulties the restrictive definition of pyramid selling in the Pyramid Selling Act 1980 has caused for the enforcement of the Act and I am anxious to forestall any similar problems with the pyramid selling provisions of the present Bill. It is a technical amendment to cover any potential loophole.

  Mr. Coghlan: We are all aware of the frightening consequences of pyramid selling. We accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 2:

In page 11, to delete lines 3 to 6 and substitute the following:

“(a) sell, lease, take by way of mortgage or other security, assign, award by chance or otherwise effect a disposition of,

(b) offer or agree to supply or expose or display for supply;”.

[101]   Mr. Martin: This is a technical amendment. It substitutes the verb for the noun form in the elaboration of the definition of supply in paragraphs (a) and (b). First, this is more appropriate and more consistent with the approach taken to comparable definitions in the section. Second, it deletes the words “or inviting an offer to purchase” in paragraph (b). These had the potential to cause confusion with the concept of invitation to purchase, which is defined in this section and features in section 45 and other parts of the Bill. The words proposed for deletion are not essential to what is a comprehensive definition of supply. I am satisfied their removal will not create any gaps in the definition.

Amendment agreed to.

  An Cathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 3, 10 and 38 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 3:

In page 11, after line 43, to insert the following subsection:

“(5) Notwithstanding Article 3(10) of the Directive but subject to sections 5 to 6A (inserted by section 95) of the Hallmarking Act 1981, Part 3 applies to commercial practices relating to indications of the standard of fineness of articles of precious metal.”.

  Mr. Martin: The background to the amendment to section 2(5) is intended to clarify that the provisions of Part 3 of the Bill on unfair, misleading, aggressive and prohibited commercial practices apply to commercial practices relating to the hallmarking of articles of precious metal.

Article 3.10 of the unfair commercial practices directive states, “This Directive shall not apply to the application of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of Member States relating to the certification and indication of the standard of fineness of articles of precious metal.” We have supported this provision in the directive as there were concerns that due to the maximum harmonisation of the directive, its application to national hallmarking laws might mean we could no longer require articles of precious metal imported from member states to bear a mark providing information equivalent to that provided by hallmarks approved under domestic legislation. While we had concerns about the possible implications of the directive for hallmarking controls, we had no wish to exclude unfair, misleading or aggressive practices relating to the hallmarking of precious metals from its provisions and those of this Bill.

The purchase of gold, silver or platinum items are among the most significant purchases consumers make and it is important that the protections of Part 3 of the Bill apply to them. I propose this amendment to remove any doubt arising [102] from Article 3.10 of the directive that the Bill’s provisions on unfair, misleading and aggressive practices might not apply to the standard of fineness of articles of precious metal.

The amendment proposed to section 41(2) qualifies the application of that subsection to take account of the new section inserted at section 95. The amendment at section 2(5) is also subject to this new section.

Section 95 deals with amendments required to sections 5 and 6 and the Hallmarking Act 1981 as a consequence of the repeal of the Merchandise Marks Act 1887 by this Bill. Section 5 of the Hallmarking Act provides that specified misdescriptions of articles of precious metal are offences under the Merchandise Marks Act 1887. Section 6 lists a number of permissible descriptions of these articles to which section 5 does not apply. In view of the repeals of the Merchandise Marks Act 1887, it is necessary to re-enact these provisions within the framework of the Consumer Protection Bill, which is what section 95 does. Apart from changes required by the differences in terminology between the Merchandise Marks Act and this Bill, it does not make any substantive changes to sections 5 and 6 of the Hallmarking Act. The amendments are consequential on the repeal of the Act of 1887.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 2, as amended, agreed to.

Section 3 agreed to.

SECTION 4.

  An Cathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 4 and 43 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 4:

In page 12, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following subsection:

“(2) Section 20(5)(b) of the National Standards Authority of Ireland Act 1996 is amended by deleting “the Merchandise Marks Acts 1887 to 1978, and”.”.

  Mr. Martin: Section 20(5)(b) of the National Standards Authority of Ireland Act 1996 states that the standard mark issued by the National Standards Authority of Ireland is a trade mark for the purposes of the Merchandise Marks Acts 1887 to 1978 and the Trade Marks Act 1996. The provisions of the Merchandise Marks Acts relating to the protection of trade marks have long since been superseded by the Trade Marks Acts and the Bill makes no provision for their retention. The reference to the Merchandise Marks Acts in this subsection of the National Standards Authority of Ireland Act is consequently redundant.

[103] Section 52(1)(k) of the Bill provides that it is a prohibited commercial practice for a trader to display a standard mark without having obtained necessary authorisation to do so. This would cover standard marks issued by the National Standards Authority of Ireland.

The new Schedule (2) submitted by this amendment also relates to amendments consequential on the repeal of the Merchandise Marks Act. It adds the repeal of a further four Acts to the Acts repealed in full by the Bill. These are the Anglo-Portuguese Commercial Treaty Acts of 1914 and 1916, which concerned wine importation, the Portuguese Treaty Act 1930 and the Spanish Trade Agreement Act 1936. All four Acts provide that the applications of certain descriptions to Portuguese and Spanish wines, such as port, madeira, sherry, rioja and so on — I know Members are familiar with them — are false trade descriptions within the meaning of the Merchandise Marks Act 1887 unless certain specified conditions are met. These provisions are now obsolete and have been superseded by the European Union wine designation regime. As all four Acts have effectively no provisions other than those relating to the applications of the Merchandise Marks Act 1887 to the wines within their scope, it is appropriate to take the opportunity to repeal them along with that Act. My Department consulted with the Portuguese and Spanish embassies with regard to their repeal, and they agreed the Acts had no contemporary applicability and expressed no objections to their repeal.

The amendments proposed to the Schedule provide for the repeal of specified subsections of a number of other Acts. The relevant provisions in the agricultural produce Acts, the seed production Act and the Road Traffic Acts essentially provide that where marks are prescribed by regulations made under the Acts for the marketing of the goods in question, the application of such marks contrary to the regulations is a false trade description within the meaning of the Merchandise Marks Acts. Regulations giving effect to these provisions were either never made or are no longer applicable. As the provisions of these Acts will fall with the repeal of the Merchandise Marks Acts by this Bill, it is appropriate to provide for their repeal also.

Section 19 of the National Standards Authority of Ireland Act deals with false representations in connection with the specification of standards and section 19(3) provides that nothing in the section will be construed as limiting the operation of section 2 of the Merchandise Marks Act 1887 dealing with the application of false trade descriptions to goods. In my Department’s view, there is no need for an equivalent provision in the context of the present Bill. Section 21(7) of the National Standards Authority of Ireland Act provides that the use of licensed standard marks in certain circumstances is deemed not to be a false trade description for the purposes of the Merchandise [104] Marks Acts. In view of the maximum harmonisation nature of the unfair commercial practices directive, we cannot make provisions for exemptions other than those provided for in the directive. I am advised the provision is of little or no practical significance.

Section 12(1) of the Packaged Goods (Quality Control) Act 1980 provides that a statement of quantity on a package in pursuance of section 10(a) of the Act, which deals with the duties of packers and importers as regards the marking of packages, shall not be regarded as a trade description within the meaning of the Merchandise Marks Acts. Again, it is not within the discretion of member states to introduce national exemptions from the scope of those provisions of the unfair commercial practices directive that correspond to the false trade descriptions of the Merchandise Marks Acts.

The Bill represents the consolidation of many older Acts pertaining to consumer issues. There is a lot of tidying up to do.

  Mr. Coghlan: I will accept the Minister’s word on that. There is no opposition to the amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 4, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”

  Mr. Leyden: The Bill provides for the revocation of the Prices (Stabilisation of Profit Margins of Retailers of Motor Cars) Order and the Consumer Information (Diesel and Petrol) (Reduction in Retail Price) Order. In light of the Competition Authority’s case regarding the sale of Ford motor cars, did the existing provision encourage the retailers to form some sort of cartel to retain their margin?

  Mr. Martin: These were anti-competitive measures that could facilitate the fixing of prices. Therefore, their removal is important.

  Mr. Leyden: I am surprised the retailers in question did not quote those provisions in defence of their cartel type operation. It is interesting they are being revoked now, probably as a result of the case taken by the Competition Authority.

  Mr. Martin: In general, anything that endeavoured to control prices is being removed. The Bill repeals the type of price controls we had in the 1970s and 1980s because price control does not work, but gives rise to certain unacceptable practices.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 5 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.

[105] SECTION 8.

Government amendment No. 5:

In page 14, between lines 45 and 46, to insert the following subsection:

“(5) Nothing in this section or any other provision of this Act imposes a duty on the Agency to consider whether to investigate a matter relating to Part 3 that is referred to it by a trader but the Agency may, in the case of a matter so referred to it, consider whether to do so (and, accordingly, may proceed to investigate the matter) where it is satisfied the matter may affect the interests and welfare of consumers.”.

  Mr. Martin: The scope of the unfair commercial practices directive, on which Part 3 is based, is restricted to business to consumer commercial practices. It differs in this respect from older domestic legislation, such as the Merchandise Marks Act 1887, which applies to all commercial transactions, business to business as well as business to consumer. This reflects the fact that consumer protection was not a distinct area of policy concern when such legislation was being drafted in the past. It is now a priority area for policy and the National Consumer Agency is being set up with a clear mandate to advance consumer welfare and interests.

The aim of this amendment is to clarify that the agency is required to investigate a matter referred to it by a trader only where it is satisfied that the matter concerned may affect the interests and welfare of consumers. While the agency will welcome information provided by traders and will act on it where appropriate, it should not have to devote resources earmarked for consumer protection to matters with no consumer dimension and which involve only commercial differences, rivalry or disputes between traders. The amendment aims to retain the focus of the agency on consumer interests.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 8, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 9 to 34, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 35.

  An Cathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 6:

In page 34, subsection (5), line 33, after “Acts” to insert “of the Oireachtas”.

  Mr. Martin: These are technical amendments to clarify that the reference to “Acts” in section 35(5) is to Acts of the Oireachtas and the refer[106] ence to “Act” in section 37(3) is to an Act as defined in the Interpretation Act 2005. Both amendments are proposed on the advice of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 35, as amended, agreed to.

Section 36 agreed to.

SECTION 37.

Government amendment No. 7:

In page 36, subsection (3), line 18, after “Act” to insert the following:

“(within the meaning of the Interpretation Act 2005)”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 37, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 38 and 39 agreed to.

NEW SECTION.

  An Cathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 8 and 44 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 8:

In page 37, before section 40, but in Part 2, to insert the following new section:

“40.—(1) The Acts of the Oireachtas specified in Part 1 of Schedule 3 are amended as indicated in that Schedule.

(2) The instruments specified in Part 2 of Schedule 3 are amended as indicated in that Schedule.”.

  Mr. Martin: There are references in a number of other Acts and statutory instruments to the Director of Consumer Affairs or the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs which would require amendment to take account of the fact that the director and the office are to be replaced by the National Consumer Agency. These amendments are set out in the proposed new Schedule 3 while the new section 40 proposed by this amendment provides the necessary underpinning in the main part of the Bill. The amendments set out in Schedule 3 to the various enactments specified there provide only for the substitution of the National Consumer Agency for the Director of Consumer Affairs or the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs and have no other effect on the provisions concerned. It is a technical amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

[107] SECTION 40.

  An Cathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 9 and 13 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 9:

In page 38, subsection (2)(b)(i), line 7, to delete “trader’s product” and substitute “product concerned”.

  Mr. Martin: The provisions of the unfair commercial practices directive, to which sections 40(2)(b)(i) and 50(1)(a) give effect, do not include the word “trader’s” before “product”. These amendments propose the deletion of the word from each of the subsections. Therefore, we intend to delete “trader’s product” and substitute “product concerned”. The product in a consumer transaction is not always the trader’s product. In the case of an estate agent conducting the sale of a house, for example, the product is not his, but his actions can impair a consumer’s ability to make an informed choice as to whether to purchase the property or on what terms to do so. These amendments are necessary in order to ensure the provisions of the Bill will apply in such cases.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 40, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 41.

Government amendment No. 10:

In page 38, subsection (2), line 19, to delete “Sections 42 to 45” and substitute the following:

“Without prejudice to the amendments of the Hallmarking Act 1981 made by section 95, sections 42 to 45”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 41, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 42 to 44, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 45.

  An Cathaoirleach: Amendment No. 10a is a Government amendment which is on the supplementary list circulated today. Amendments Nos. 10a, 11 and 12 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 10a:

In page 41, subsection (3), line 33, to delete “Subject to subsection (5), if” and substitute “If”.

[108]   Mr. Martin: The amendments to section 45(3)(a) and section 45(5) are proposed in order to align these provisions more closely with the corresponding provisions of the unfair commercial practices directive. Article 7(4)(a) of the directive places the words “to an extent appropriate to the medium and the product” directly after the words “the main characteristics of the product”. This is what is proposed in the amendment to section 45(3)(a) here. This makes the elaboration of the directive provision at section 45(5) unnecessary and its deletion is consequently proposed. The deletion of section 45(5) requires in turn the deletion of the words ”subject to subsection (5)” from section 45(3), as provided for in amendment 10a. These are technical amendments to ensure we conform with the directive.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 11:

In page 41, subsection (3)(a), line 37, after “product” to insert the following:

“, to an extent appropriate to the medium and the product”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 12:

In page 42, lines 22 to 27, to delete subsection (5).

Amendment agreed to.

Section 45, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 46 to 49, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 50.

Government amendment No. 13:

In page 44, subsection (1)(a), lines 26 and 27, to delete “trader’s product” and substitute “product concerned”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 50, as amended, agreed to.

Section 51 agreed to.

SECTION 52.

  Ms Cox: I move amendment No. 14:

In page 49, subsection (3), between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

“(h) in relation to the method of payment, charging the consumer—

(i) any extra amount of money, commonly referred to as a credit card surcharge, if a consumer chooses to pay for [109] goods of any description or any services or accommodation by credit or debit card, or

(ii) a different price to supply goods of any description, or provide any services or accommodation depending on the payment being made in cash or by credit card or debit card, or

(iii) a handling fee for purchases made on the Internet depending on the method of payment chosen by the consumer.”.

On Second Stage I raised the thoroughly inequitable set-up imposed by many organisations that seek additional profits from people forced to pay for or buy services on the Internet or over the telephone. We are seeing an increasing trend on the part of organisations such as Ticketmaster, Ryanair, and Aer Lingus of forcing consumers to pay them to do business with them. Everyone accepts that in a consumer society one must pay for a product or service, but to be forced to pay for doing business with an organisation is not at all fair. It is up to the Government to ensure that we pass the necessary legislation to stop such unfair profiteering, and I would like the Minister to examine it.

For instance, if the Minister goes to his local shop, which might be somewhere in Cork, to buy a suit or shirt and the assistant says it will cost €40, €80 or €100, that is what he will charge, whether paid in cash or with a credit card. He does not say that it will cost another €5 if one pays with a credit card. In that transaction he accepts that the cost of doing business and receiving the payment — the credit card charges of the company affording him credit on the customer’s behalf — is part of his overheads. We all know the exorbitant sums charged to cardholders for outstanding balances. It is not as if people are not making money from credit cards at all stages.

Another point that must be taken on board is supported by the Irish Banking Federation in particular. We are encouraging a move towards a cashless society, something ever more important, especially given the fact that in recent months bank officials have been held to ransom until they handed over money. We must encourage people at all levels of society to pay for things using credit or Laser cards. In that move towards a cashless society, there is a disincentive to use credit cards if people are forced by the service provider to pay €2.50 or €6 per transaction or a percentage of the cost of goods.

I would like us to consider the society in which we operate. I will talk of western County Galway in particular, which has the Aran Islands and places separated from centres such as Galway city by distances of 50 or 60 miles. People in such areas are being discriminated against through not enjoying fair access to a service. If they wish to book a theatre ticket on the Internet because they are unable or unwilling to get the bus into town, they are charged extra for the privilege of paying [110] for it in their own home. Some people might say it is a service for which people are happy to pay. However, I suggest it is discriminatory and should not be allowed.

Recently a report was published on the lack of Internet take-up among older people, another group who I believe could benefit. If one told an older person to book or pay for something on the Internet with a credit card, he or she might well be discouraged by the increased expense. If we can reduce the unfair tax or surcharge imposed by suppliers, we will achieve a more equitable system.

I will give another example of people jumping on the bandwagon. At Christmas I attended a concert at the Helix in Dublin. We paid for the tickets over the Internet, and there was no booking fee. However, we read in the programme that from February the Helix too would introduce a booking fee for theatre tickets. The owners did not have to charge before, and I do not blame them for emulating such companies as Ticketmaster. Why should one not make money if everyone else is doing so? However, it makes fools of consumers, since it allows unacceptable profit taking.

Another argument often put forward, especially by merchants themselves, is that if one removed the surcharge, the transaction would become less transparent so that, instead of their charging a booking fee on top of the price, they would charge one included in it. That is probably not fair, since it would then be a matter for the consumer to decide if €70 for a ticket to the Point was too expensive. They might choose to buy the €65 or €50 tickets instead of the €70 one, and the market would decide. Ultimately it is the consumer who must decide how much is too much. However, if one wishes to buy €50 tickets for oneself and four or five friends who wish to attend a play, GAA match or whatever, and is told in the middle of the transaction that a credit card processing fee of €2.50 or €5 per ticket will be charged, it is very hard to stop. That means that consumers are being led up the garden path by such surcharging, and our acceptance of that is not good enough.

This has always been my understanding, and I have checked with the National Consumer Agency, the Consumers’ Association of Ireland, and the Irish Banking Federation. MasterCard and Visa used to impose a no-discrimination rule whereby merchants might not distinguish between customers paying in cash or by credit card. A recent alarming move was MasterCard’s change to that rule. While it is already being ignored, if Visa follows suit, we will have no route other than national legislation to override the excessive profiteering of organisations selling over the Internet.

A report in The Sunday Business Post on 22 October 2006 quoted a Ticketmaster representative as saying that the service charge paid for things other than the Ticketmaster distribution network, such as the installation and maintenance [111] of computer hardware and software, telephone lines and labour. The Minister is responsible for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and will know that many people run businesses. What else do they do except cover their overheads? One cannot simply accept their getting away with levying an additional fixed or percentage charge per ticket. One must build it into one’s costs and, if one manages one’s business appropriately, ensure that one covers them in a fair and reasonable way rather than exploiting the individual consumer.

This is my plea to the Minister. I may not have tabled the amendment to the correct section or have used the correct technical terms. We inserted it into section 4, since that dealt with prohibited commercial practices. We should send a clear message to consumers that the Government wishes to offer as much protection as possible and that it believes in equitable profit taking for all organisations. To have a non-negotiable credit surcharge if one chooses to do business with an organisation is neither appropriate nor fair. We do not pass legislation for the sake of being popular, but since we started talking about this, I have received overwhelming support from people throughout the country who hate paying this money and do not think it fair. If consumers cannot refuse payment because they require the Internet service, they need us to act to protect them.

I ask that the Minister consider the amendment and accept it if appropriate. We must send out the clear message that we want people to do business in the very lucrative Irish market, but that can happen only if no one is exploited.

  Mr. Leyden: I commend Senator Cox on tabling this amendment, which she has also suggested as a Private Members’ Bill through the Fianna Fáil Senators’ group, from which she received great support. I know that the Minister will give this very careful consideration. It is a very worthy amendment, and the consumer should be protected when using credit cards, which are being exploited to a great extent. They are a very expensive method of payment and, while people should be encouraged to use them, that is true only if there is no extra cost.

Senator Cox has chosen this route, which would be speedier than a Private Members’ Bill and which would ensure that her idea would get through the legislative system. I request the Minister and his Department to give this every possible consideration for inclusion in this Bill.

  Mr. Coghlan: I, too, compliment Senator Cox on the elegant way in which she has advanced her arguments and for the research she put into it. It is a worthy amendment. I fully support it.

We are concerned here with consumer protection and promoting consumers’ interests. The consumer simply should not be forced into any[112] thing. The measure Senator Cox proposes to counter is an anti-consumer one. I totally agree with her. It is discriminatory. Consumers need choice. They must never be straight-jacketed. There are also rip-off charges, particularly in the case of credit card interest. Without labouring the point, I am fully supportive of this worthy amendment.

  Mr. Martin: I thank Senator Cox for tabling this amendment. I pay tribute to her for her perseverance and pursuance of the issue. She has pursued me around the House and at parliamentary party meetings for about six months on this issue.

  Mr. Coghlan: I never knew about that until today.

  Ms Cox: On St. Valentine’s Day there was a different reason.

  Mr. Coghlan: I had forgotten that as well.

  Mr. Martin: There is always a good chance of success on St. Valentine’s Day.

We have examined this within the Department as well. We have had some animated discussions internally on the merits of the amendment. Of course the intention and motivation behind the amendment has significant merit. It is designed to prohibit a trader discriminating between consumers on the basis of the consumer’s chosen method of payment for the product in question. Some traders charge an additional amount to consumers if they choose to pay by credit card. In other cases traders will charge additional amounts if a consumer opts to pay by cash or cheque instead of by direct debit.

In introducing a regulation of this kind we need to be satisfied that the rules we are establishing will have the desired effect and will not inadvertently produce some other unintended consequence which might not be in the best interest of consumers.

I do not like the imposition of additional charges based on the payment method. However, in so far as such charges might have any saving grace, they are at least transparent and the consumer knows that he or she is paying the charge. Most consumers will then have the choice as to whether they pay the charge or not. I accept that this is not always the case and, in particular, problems can arise in the case of vulnerable consumers or those with special needs. The question also arises of whether we should be leaving it to the marketplace in any event to determine price levels.

By prohibiting these charges, we could be open to the charge that we may well cause them to become hidden. If the trader were, as a consequence of the prohibition, to build the charge into a higher price which he or she then would charge to everyone regardless of how he or she [113] pays, then no consumer interest would have been served.

The corollary of a surcharge is that some traders might like to characterise the practice as one of providing a discount for a particular payment method. For example, one trader might display a charge of €50 for a product but stipulate that it would be available at a discount price of €47.50 if the consumer pays cash. That is no different from a trader stating that the price is €47.50 but there will be a surcharge of €2.50 for paying by credit card. The first of these practices would not be captured by Senator Cox’s amendment — neither do we necessarily want to capture it — and the second practice probably would be prohibited by it.

The other issue that would need to be examined is whether or not the prohibition would prevent the trader from recovering a legitimate cost to him of doing business. For example, it would be absurd to prohibit a trader from building the cost of heating and lighting his premises into the price he charged for his products, nor would we seek to prevent a charge for delivery of a product.

In the same way, if a trader incurs an additional cost for processing credit card charges — I am not certain that he or she does in all cases — then that is a legitimate business cost and the trader should be entitled to recovery of that cost. Senator Cox made a compelling point, with which I have sympathy, that a range of costs which go into the production and delivery of a product determine the ultimate price and market forces should apply.

I am also taken by the revelation by Senator Cox that the rules of Mastercard have changed. On a voluntary basis the rules of certain payment card schemes prevented discrimination on grounds of method of payment, but now one of the card companies has removed them.

The other technical point is that we could not insert the amendment into section 52 as it would have the effect of extending the list of commercial practices prohibited by the Unfair Commercial Practice Directive. The maximum harmonisation nature of the directive would not permit us to do that and we might well face sanctions from the Commission for seeking to do so.

Nevertheless, I support the intent behind Senator Cox’s suggestion and will carefully consider the legal and policy issues associated with an amendment of this sort over the coming days. With Senator Cox’s agreement, I intend to reflect on the amendment with a view, if we can get over the technical nature of the difficulties I highlighted, to introduce a suitable amendment to the Bill before it completes its passage through the Oireachtas. The time involved would mean we would have to introduce the amendment in the Dáil and bring it back here to the Seanad for subsequent agreement.

I take on board what Senators Leyden and Coghlan have stated. I ask Senator Cox to accept [114] our good faith in crafting an amendment, which is legally and technically correct and which achieves the objective set out in her amendment. I accept her point that she is speaking on behalf of many consumers and that this is a consumer protection Bill. This would be received well by consumers generally.

  Ms Cox: I thank the Minister, first, for spending a great deal of time looking at the Private Members’ Bill when I presented it to him. There were initial discussions between the Department of Finance and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. It will send a strong message to the consumers if we state that we want to protect them and we will do this. I am more than happy to accept the Minister’s good faith in this regard. I look forward to the amendment being made in the Dáil and then being in a position to discuss it when the Bill returns to this House. I thank the Minister for taking it on board.

  Mr. Coghlan: I am not doubting the Minister’s acceptance of the intention, but I am slightly worried that he is not necessarily guaranteeing that the amendment will be made on Report Stage in this House.

  Mr. Martin: There will be an amendment, which will have to be brought to the Dáil first and brought back here then because anything that is changed in the Dáil must be vetted subsequently by the Seanad.

  Mr. Coghlan: We have the Minister’s guarantee that there will be an amendment.

  Mr. Martin: Yes, subject to us getting over the technical issues and being able to insert it in the relevant part of the Bill. It will not be inserted into section 52, but we will look at other sections where we can insert an amendment of this kind. We must draft an amendment now. We know the intention. We know what is required and what people want.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 52 agreed to.

Sections 53 to 60, inclusive, agreed to.

NEW SECTION.

  Mr. Coghlan: I move amendment No. 15:

In page 51, before section 61, but in Part 3, to insert the following new section:

“CHAPTER 5

Price Surveys

“61.—The Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2003 is amended in Article 3 of Part 21 of Schedule 1 by the insertion of the following after section 7:

[115] “7A.—(1) The Director may, in the interests of better informing consumers, conduct price surveys in order to—

(a) make consumers aware of price discrepancies,

(b) assess competitiveness or other practices under sections 4 and 5 of the Competition Act 2002, or

(c) for such other reason as the Director may, from time to time, deem necessary.

(2) The Director shall not be limited by national or currency boundaries in carrying out a price survey referred to in subsection (1).

(3) The Director shall be empowered to—

(a) (i) publish or part-publish all or any part of information,

(ii) create an electronic database containing data, gathered by him or her under this section, and

(b) make any electronic database created under paragraph (a)(ii) publicly available on-line.

7B.—The Director may compile and publish codes of conduct for service providers and retailers on such issues as he or she may, from time to time, deem appropriate, including the passing on of costs such as exchange rate movements.

7C.—(1) The Director may establish the ‘Good Practice Provider Quality Mark’.

(2) The Good Practice Provider Quality Mark shall be awarded to suppliers of goods and services who agree to be bound by a code of practice compiled and published under section 7B.”.”.

This is basic to what we are about in the Bill, that the director would have power to conduct price surveys. I would see this measure as a sine qua non for legislation of this kind. I look forwarding to hearing the Minister’s views on the matter, but it is spelt out there and we believe in it.

  Mr. Martin: It is not quite clear what is intended by the first part of the proposed amendment, which seeks to amend the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2003. I am not sure to what director Senator Coghlan is referring in that context, but I will comment on some of the points raised in the amendment.

The effect of the amendment would appear to empower the Director of Consumer Affairs——

  Mr. Coghlan: That is correct.

  Mr. Martin: Yes, but the preamble of the amendment speaks of the Central Bank and Fin[116] ancial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2003. In any event, the effect of the amendment would appear to empower the Director of Consumer Affairs to conduct price surveys for the various reasons stated in the amendment. I would advise Senator Coghlan that the Office of Director of Consumer Affairs will cease to exist once the National Consumer Agency comes into being. Therefore, the question of assigning powers to that Office simply does not arise.

If it is Senator Coghlan’s intention that the powers proposed in the amendment should be assigned to the consumer director of the Financial Regulator, I would advise that the Financial Regulator already has powers under the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2003 to conduct consumer information and awareness campaigns on financial services. The House will be aware of the regulator’s activities in this area, especially its regular price surveys of different financial services. The Act of 2003 empowers the consumer director to issue statutory codes on regulated entities providing financial services.

3 o’clock

Section 8 of this Bill, which sets out the functions of the new National Consumer Agency, already includes specific provisions obliging the agency to conduct, commission and research studies and analysis relating to its functions and to publish the findings of such research as it considers appropriate. Section 8 also obliges the agency to promote public awareness and conduct public information campaigns for the purpose of educating and advising consumers.

I am satisfied, therefore, that the Bill already contains sufficient provision to ensure the agency can carry out the sort of price surveying proposed in the Senator’s amendment. The inclusion of a power to compile and publish codes of conduct for service providers seems to mirror what is already included in the Bill at section 87, which gives the agency power to prepare, issue and publish guidelines for traders on any matters related to consumer protection or welfare. Traders who agree to be bound by such guidelines would be free to advertise that fact.

Regarding the proposed provision to create a good practice provider quality mark, I am of the view that such a provision may have some merit and, therefore, intend to insert a provision in section 8 which sets out the functions of the agency and will enable the agency to award provider quality marks, should it consider it appropriate, as suggested by the Senator.

Some of what is in this amendment is already catered for in the Bill and the agency can already carry out price surveys and so on, even without statutory underpinning. The Financial Regulator has powers to do this also in terms of its consumer obligations. In terms of the quality mark issue raised in the amendment, I am prepared to strengthen the Bill in section 8 and include an amendment to this effect.

[117]   Mr. Coghlan: I am happy to accept the assurance of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment that this power already exists for the director of the new agency and that, without the legislative underpinning, it is happening already with price surveys. I also accept his assurance that he will have an amendment to the appropriate section on the issue of provider quality marks.

  Mr. Quinn: I appreciate the Minister’s response to Senator Coghlan’s proposal and I believe the idea of the good practice provider quality mark should be encouraged and taken into account.

Senator Coghlan’s amendment states: “The Director shall not be limited by national or currency boundaries in carrying out a price survey”. It has concerned me in the past that taxes that apply in Ireland and that do not apply elsewhere, on alcohol and so on, give the impression that the retailer is overcharging. I am sure there is no easy way in law to have attention drawn to the fact that such price differences are due to taxes imposed by the State. When considering Senator Coghlan’s amendment, could the Minister find a way to relieve the concerns of those who feel aggrieved when there is publicity relating to perceived overcharging by retailers when very often such overcharging occurs due to a Government tax? I am not suggesting this could be included in the amendment but it could be taken into account.

  Mr. Martin: This indicates a problem relating to public commentary on surveys generally because different countries have different taxes. The State would reply that analyses of the cost competitiveness of the Irish economy rarely mention the fact that corporation tax is 12.5%, far lower than every other corporation tax in Europe.

The most recent discussions on the grocery trade, where appalling, deliberate inaccuracies have been circulated, provide a case in point. Goods covered by the groceries order have been deliberately mixed with those not covered by the groceries order and headlines today suggested food prices are up 16%. Statistics from the Central Statistics Office, CSO, show that goods covered by the groceries order have fallen in price by 1.6% since April 2006 and are at the lowest level since December 2002. Anyone can do a survey showing the price of fish is up 16% in supermarkets but fish was never covered by the groceries order. Articles suggest that, despite the abolition of the groceries order, fish is up 16%, but this is a false and misleading statement because it does not compare like with like. However, three months before a general election anything goes, I suppose.

The Senator was not trying to raise these issues but was suggesting that comparing the price of, for example, beer in Ireland with the price in other countries is not comparing like with like as our excise duty on alcohol is higher. That is a fair [118] comment and we will talk to the agency about its responsibility to ensure it draws distinctions. The problem is that there are so many different benchmarks internationally. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, might conduct a survey, the European Commission might conduct one, people use gross domestic product, GDP, rather than gross national product, GNP, and sometimes it is hard to get a common framework. I will consider the matter of seeking to place a general obligation on the agency to make every effort to ensure surveys compare like with like to promote accuracy.

The other side of my argument about the groceries order is that those opposed to it may feel that certain surveys were skewed in support of it. I do not know if this is the case but that argument has been made to me. The difficulty is in legislatively placing an obligation on an agency to ensure surveys compare like with like. A general exhortation could be included legislatively that the agency should have due regard for objective data sources and comparing like with like. I will consider this matter in the context of Report Stage as I think Senator Quinn has made a valid point and, for the sake of good debate and legislation, we desperately need neutral, objective and cold analysis of facts. There are many interest groups on all sides that are anxious to spin issues this way and that but for good, informed public policy and decision making, one needs a cold, analytical approach. In this regard the CSO provides some of the best data possible.

  Mr. Quinn: I accept what the Minister has said and did not mean to suggest that such an amendment would be easy but the exhortation mentioned might be sufficient. It may be that the onus is on the media to draw the public’s attention to this matter, in which case responsibility lies with the retailers. The Minister may be a little unwise to raise the question of the groceries order in the House as he may initiate a debate between Senator Coghlan and me. One of us supported the Minister in abolishing the groceries order and the other was not enthusiastic in this regard.

  Mr. Coghlan: The jury is still out and Senator Quinn is very diplomatic. In view of the Minister’s assurances, I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 61 agreed to.

SECTION 62.

  Mr. J. Walsh: Amendments Nos. 16 and 20 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 16:

In page 52, subsection (1), to delete lines 5 to 7 and substitute the following:

[119] “scheme,

(b) knowingly participate in such a scheme, or

(c) induce or attempt to induce another person to participate in such a scheme.”.

  Mr. Martin: This is an interesting amendment. With the exception of the Pyramid Selling Act 1980, the criminal enforcement provisions of consumer legislation are based on a model of strict liability offences, that is, offences in respect of which there is no requirement to show intention or negligence on the part of the accused person, balanced by a due diligence defence. Again, with the exception of pyramid promotion schemes, this is the approach taken by this Bill and section 75 provides for a due diligence defence along the lines now well established in regulatory legislation.

The Pyramid Selling Act 1980 provided only for transitional defence for persons charged with offences relating to schemes in operation before the commencement of the Act. Unlike that Act, which essentially prohibits only the promotion of such schemes, section 62 of this Bill makes it an offence to participate in a pyramid scheme. While it is difficult to conceive of circumstances in which a person could innocently establish, operate or promote a pyramid scheme, a person could, conceivably, be an unwitting participant in such a scheme. The amendment proposed to section 62(1)(b) introduces a mental element to the participation offence by specifying that a person must knowingly participate in such a scheme for an offence to be committed. The amendment to section 75 proposes the exemption of offences relating to pyramid schemes from the due diligence defence provided in this section. It was never my intention to apply such a defence to pyramid scheme offences. This amendment effectively restores the position under existing legislation. Since the penalties are very severe, amounting to five years’ imprisonment in other sections of the Bill, the approach adopted in respect of participation in pyramid schemes, rather than their promotion or organisation, is sensible and balanced.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 62, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 63 to 67, inclusive, agreed to.

  Acting Chairman: Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

Government amendment No. 17:

In page 55, subsection (7), line 7, to delete “appropriate.” and substitute the following:

[120] “appropriate, including a requirement that the trader or person publish a corrective statement, at the trader’s or person’s own expense and in any manner the court considers appropriate, in respect of the matters the subject of the order.”.

  Mr. Martin: Article 11.2 of the unfair commercial practices directive gives member states discretion to empower courts that have ordered the cessation of a commercial practice by a final decision to require, in addition, the publication of a corrective statement by the trader concerned. A provision along these lines was included in the general scheme of the Bill published in August 2006. Although the publication of a corrective statement presumably would be covered by the general reference in section 68(7) to terms and conditions that the court may impose in making a prohibition order, it is desirable that section 68 make an express reference to a corrective statement. Section 79 provides for such a statement in the context of criminal proceedings and it would be inconsistent not to make similar provision in the civil context. As I stated in my Second Stage speech, I regard the naming and shaming of offenders as an important element in the enforcement of this Bill. The amendment proposed to section 68(7) is complementary to this objective.

The amendment proposed to section 70(4)(d), concerning corrective statements published as part of an undertaking given by a trader to the National Consumer Agency, is largely technical in nature. A corrective statement cannot really be said to “remedy the prohibited act or practice”. Such wording is not used in section 79 and the amendment proposes that it be substituted with the more neutral wording, “relating to the prohibited act or practice”. Section 79 also refers to “corrective statement” in the singular. In the interest of consistency, section 70(4)(d) has been amended to do so also.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 68, as amended, agreed to.

Section 69 agreed to.

SECTION 70.

Government amendment No. 18:

In page 57, subsection (4)(d), lines 6 and 7, to delete all words from and including “corrective” in line 6 down to and including “practice” in line substitute the following:

“a corrective statement relating to the prohibited act or practice”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 70, as amended, agreed to.

[121] Section 71 agreed to.

NEW SECTION.

  Mr. Coghlan: I move amendment No. 19:

In page 58, before section 72, but in Chapter 2, to insert the following new section:

“72.—Order 53A of the District Court Rules, 1997 (S.I. No. 410 of 2001) is amended—

(a) in Rule 1, by the substitution in the definition of “small claim” of “€10,000” for “€1,269.74”,

(b) in Rule 3, by the substitution of “€10.00” for “€9.00”, and

(c) in Rule 7, by the substitution of “€10.00” for “€9.00”.”.

This is a simple measure. In view of increased costs resulting from inflation, etc., it is necessary to increase the claim of €1,269.74, which is now regarded as very small. It should be increased considerably to relieve the clogging up of courts. It is very reasonable and I am sure the Minister will agree.

  Mr. Quinn: I support Senator Coghlan, whose amendment seems very reasonable. It makes a lot of sense to substitute the small claim, which was originally £1,000 and now €1,269.74, with €10,000.

  Mr. Martin: We are talking about the small claims court. The limit for small claims is €2,000 and not €1,269.74, as referred to in the amendment. The regulations increasing the limit to this level, the District Court (Small Claims) (Amendment) Rules 2006, came into effect early in 2006 under the aegis of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Senator’s amendment, which proposes to raise the small claims limit to €10,000, would increase the small claims jurisdictional limit beyond the civil jurisdictional limit of the District Court, which is currently €6,250.

I consider it important that the consumer-friendly ethos underlying the small claims court procedures be maintained. Increasing the limit disproportionately, as proposed in the Senator’s amendment, will clearly increase the likelihood that retailers will engage lawyers to defend small claims initiated against them. This would be a retrograde step and contrary to the entire basis of the court of this nature. I share the view of the Consumer Strategy Group that the ready access afforded to the ordinary consumer by the small claims court procedure in seeking redress in small civil cases must be protected. Notwithstanding the foregoing, I agree the jurisdictional limit of the small claims procedure should reflect the instances of ordinary consumer transactions when purchasing goods or services. In this regard, I supported the decision to increase the jurisdictional limit to €2,000 last year. I understand the Courts Service intends to review the limit on a periodic [122] basis and I expect the National Consumer Agency, once it is up and running, will be included in any consultation by the Courts Service on future reviews of the limit.

I may forward the content of this debate to the Courts Service and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. A limit between €2,000 and €6,000 may be appropriate but a limit of €10,000 would be obviously too high. One does not want the small claims court to become too adversarial and involve lawyers as this would defeat the purpose of the exercise. The limit of €2,000 is low.

  Mr. Coghlan: It is too low.

  Mr. Martin: I accept that.

  Mr. Coghlan: The higher courts are being clogged as a consequence. The limit badly needs to be increased.

  Mr. Martin: The District Court limit is €6,000 and a limit somewhere between €2,000 and €6,000 probably would be suitable.

  Mr. Coghlan: Will the Minister refer the matter to the Courts Service or appropriate authority?

  Mr. Martin: I will write to it.

  Mr. Coghlan: Does the Minister accept my argument?

  Mr. Martin: I accept the spirit of the Senator’s point.

  Mr. Coghlan: Of course.

  Mr. Martin: A limit of €10,000 would be too high.

  Mr. Coghlan: Perhaps we will be able to compromise.

  Mr. Martin: I know what the Senator intends and have no difficulty with the principle of what he is advocating. I will articulate it to the powers that be.

  Mr. Coghlan: In view of that, I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 72 agreed to.

Sections 73 and 74 agreed to.

SECTION 75.

Government amendment No. 20:

In page 61, subsection (1), line 7, after “Act,” to insert the following:

[123] “other than an offence under section 62(2),”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 75, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 76 and 77 agreed to.

SECTION 78.

  Acting Chairman: Amendments Nos. 21 to 23, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

Government amendment No. 21:

In page 63, subsection (6), line 36, after “Court” to insert “or, as appropriate, the Circuit Court”.

  Mr. Martin: This is reasonably straightforward. As the Bill provides for criminal proceedings on indictment as well as summary proceedings, this and the related amendment to section 78(6) are necessary to permit consumers to enter judgment for non-compliance with compensation orders with the Circuit Court as well as the District Court. Similarly, it is necessary to amend section 78(7) to make reference to the Circuit Court in addition to the District Court.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 22:

In page 63, subsection (6), line 37, to delete “district” and substitute the following:

“District Court district or, as appropriate, the circuit”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 23:

In page 63, subsection (7), line 39, to delete “District Court” and substitute “the District Court or the Circuit Court”.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 78, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 79 to 82, inclusive, agreed to.

NEW SECTIONS.

  Mr. Coghlan: I move amendment No. 24:

In page 66, before section 83, but in Chapter 5, to insert the following new section:

“83.—Section 42 of the Competition Act 2002 is amended—

[124] (a) by the insertion of the following after subsection (2):

“(3) Within 2 months of the publication of a report under subsection (1), the Authority shall issue a report on the implications of State action for competition, including the identification of how the State has inhibited or prevented competition.

(4) All Government Departments and Agencies shall be obliged to respond to a report under subsection (3) within 30 days.,

and

(b) in subsection (3), by the substitution of “this section” for “subsection (1)”.”.

In keeping with the intention of the Bill, it is important that the authority be empowered or instructed to issue a report on the implications of State action for competition. We need to know if competition is inhibited or prevented. I am interested in hearing the Minister’s views on this proposal.

  Mr. Martin: This amendment would affect the Competition Authority whereas we are dealing with the National Consumer Agency and consumer issues. I am not satisfied it is appropriate to this Bill.

  Mr. Coghlan: It is very much tied in.

  Mr. Martin: The first part of the amendment is unnecessary because the authority is already empowered under section 3(1)(f) of the Competition Act 2002 “to identify and comment on constraints imposed by an enactment or administrative practice on the operation of competition in the economy”. Where any legislation is proposed, the views of the Competition Authority are advanced and received by all the sponsoring Departments. As we know, in the recent past the Competition Authority has commented on a wide range of issues which would be encompassed by this amendment. A perfect example is its contribution to the public debate on the groceries order, for which it was roundly taken to task by Senator Coghlan and his colleagues. We can have more of these types of debates in the House if the Competition Authority is given more powers in this regard. In essence, it has these powers in any event because the 2002 Act was structured to allow the Competition Authority to be an advocate for greater competition in the economy. It has ample powers to comment on practices in both the public and private sectors. It can comment and advise on anything it sees as inhibiting competition.

The amendment would make it compulsory on the authority to report on this issue each year and I am not satisfied this would be beneficial. It might be better if the power were discretionary, [125] as currently framed. As for placing an obligation on Departments to respond, although no such statutory requirement exists at present, it is practice to pursue such issues with the appropriate authorities. I regard it as good practice that public policy makers justify their actions in public debate. I am not in a position to accept the Senator’s amendment.

Having said that, my Department will be reviewing the operation of the Competition Act 2002 during the current year and will bring forward proposals for legislative change when that is considered warranted. I will ask that the Senator’s proposal be borne in mind in the context of that review. If the Senator wishes to make a submission to that review, it will be gratefully received. We believe that aspects of the proposal, which has merit, are better included as part of the comprehensive review of the Competition Act rather than in a piecemeal fashion through the Consumer Protection Bill. The bulk of it is unnecessary apart from that one area concerned with Departments having obligations and so on. However, Government is the policy maker as well and it is a question of balance.

  Mr. Coghlan: I shall withdraw the amendment on this occasion and reconsider it for Report Stage in the light of the Minister’s remarks.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

  Mr. Coghlan: I move amendment No. 25:

In page 66, before section 83, but in Chapter 5, to insert the following new section:

“CHAPTER 6

Accounts of Large Multiples

“83.—The Competition Act 2002 is amended in Part 4 by the insertion of the following before section 32:

31A.—(1) The Minister may, by regulation, provide for the power of the Authority to audit the accounts of such multiple retailers as it sees fit for the purposes of ensuring full transparency of the competition in the retail grocery market.

(2) The Authority shall be empowered to publish or part-publish such financial information pertaining to multiple retailers as it may, from time to time, deem appropriate for the purposes of comparison and the assessment of competitiveness or practices of such multiple retailers in terms of sections 4 and 5 of this Act.

(3) In this section—

‘multiple retailer’ means a grocery retailer with at least 3 distinct trading locations within the State, and shall not include a supplier or wholesaler;

[126] ‘retailer’ means any person who resells grocery goods to the public;

‘supplier’ means a manufacturer or importer of grocery goods for sale to wholesalers or retailers and includes any person who processes, blends, cans, packs or otherwise prepares grocery goods for sale to wholesalers or retailers and also includes any person who acts as the sole distributor of such goods to wholesalers or retailers;

‘wholesaler’ means any person who purchases from a supplier grocery goods for resale to retailers.”.”.

We have heard a good deal about the accounts of large multiples and I look forward to hearing the Minister on this. Given the growth of the larger multiples and their power in this country, we believe it is important that there must be a figure above which accounts should be made public in the interests of the consumer and in the public interest generally. We heard about this during hearings of the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business concerning reports we received and the alleged abuses by large multiples of suppliers, producers, etc. I do not want to labour the point but it is important there is a certain degree of transparency. Before commenting further I would like to hear the views of the Minister on this.

  Mr. Quinn: I would like to hear the Minister’s views on this as well, although I certainly do not support Senator Coghlan in this instance. It is interesting that he has limited his amendment to grocery goods only, so that if one is not a grocer, it does not apply to one. I do not quite understand that.

Another concern I have is about the degree of envy that is evident if some successful retailer has managed to open two stores so that when he or she opens a third, in effect the figures must be disclosed. However, if the business is limited to two stores, the figures will not have to be disclosed. Perhaps the Minister will say this could always be changed to a different figure, but it seems to be most inappropriate to differentiate in this manner between large and small. One of the reasons I am sure Senator Coghlan wants to do this is to see the performances of those businesses whose headquarters are based outside Ireland. One of my problems with the groceries order, which I fear to mention lest it upsets the Minister or Senator Coghlan, is that it was not enforceable precisely because of those companies with headquarters outside this jurisdiction. It was almost impossible to determine exactly what they were paying for goods and therefore what their figures were. I believe it is not capable of being enforced and therefore I urge the Minister to give serious thought before accepting Senator Coghlan’s amendment.

[127]   Mr. Martin: We need to be very clear about overall macroeconomic policy and what we are about in Ireland in terms of the general mix, foreign direct investment and so on. Any regulation has wider effects than perhaps was initially intended and we need to keep this in perspective. All companies operating in Ireland are free to establish and organise themselves in the most suitable form for promoting and running their businesses provided they comply with national and European Union legislation.

On the issue of reporting and disclosure of accounts as referred to in the Senator’s amendment, the requirements regarding company accounts reflect those of the fourth and seventh EU company law directives. These requirements were given expression in the Companies (Amendment) Act 1986 and the European Community (Companies: Group Account) Regulations 1992, as amended. These essentially provide that multinational companies with Irish subsidiaries may file annual returns with audited accounts for the financial affairs of the parent and subsidiary undertakings as a whole. It would be inappropriate to compel one specific sector, as Senator Quinn has said, to disclose commercially sensitive information publicly. If such disclosure were required generally in the economy, it might discourage foreign direct investment, as many multinationals might want to establish elsewhere. I am sure Senator Coghlan would not want to do that.

Many concerns operating in Ireland at present choose to register as unlimited companies which, depending on whether they are public or private enterprises, have fewer disclosure requirements. The Senator’s amendment seeks to depart from these principles by allowing the Competition Authority to decide unilaterally to audit and then publish, or part publish, the accounts of multiple retailers in the grocery sector. It would be highly inappropriate to include such an amendment. The Competition Authority already has extensive powers to acquire information to exercise its enforcement functions under the Competition Acts. This extends to requiring relevant financial information from firms in all sectors. However, the authority is not permitted, nor should it be, to publish or disclose commercially sensitive information. The function of the Competition Authority is to ensure that competition is in place and that nothing is inhibiting it. The publication of commercially sensitive information by the authority would undermine its relationship with business and compromise its powers and ability to enforce competition law.

Interestingly, the Senator’s amendment makes a distinction not just between firms in different sectors but also between companies within the same sector of the economy. If one reads the amendment carefully, especially its definitions of multiple retailer, retailer, supplier and wholesaler, any grocery retailer operating more than three outlets could have its accounts published by [128] the authority. However, franchise operators such as ADM Londis, BWG or Musgraves, which operate hundreds of stores, in essence would be exempt. That is somewhat glaring and I do not believe the Oireachtas could pass an amendment that, in essence, is a discriminatory provision and, as such, is difficult to justify. For those reasons I cannot accept the amendment. Some of the broader issues require reflection as well.

The main concern of the Small Business Forum, SBF, was that payments should issue more quickly from larger companies. We are still looking at that recommendation from the SBF to see whether it might be accommodated. Legislation has been passed to facilitate this, although the SBF people argue that this has not been effective. However, this particular amendment as tabled by the Senator does not meet that requirement and could do damage.

  Mr. Coghlan: I emphasise that the intention is not to be discriminatory in any way — I take on board the Minister’s point in that regard — rather it is to ensure full transparency of competition in the retail grocery market. The wording will have to be looked at again. I will withdraw it and perhaps table one with tighter provisions on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 83 agreed to.

  Acting Chairman: Amendments Nos. 26 to 34, inclusive, have been ruled out of order on the basis that they pose a charge on the Exchequer.

Amendments Nos. 26 to 34, inclusive, not moved.

NEW SECTION.

  Mr. Coghlan: I move amendment No. 35:

In page 67, before section 84, but in Part 6, to insert the following new section:

“84.—Section 30 of the Competition Act 2002 is amended—

(a) in subsection (1)(b) by the insertion of the following after “occurred”:

“, and the Authority shall keep any complainant regularly informed of the progress of any investigation under this paragraph”,

and

(b) by the insertion of the following subsection after subsection (2):

“(3) The Minister shall introduce regulations to introduce defined time limits for different stages of investigations by the Authority, to address concerns about the length of time of investigations.”.”.

Is this an amendment to page 67 of the Bill?

  Mr. Martin: Yes, before section 84.

[129]   Mr. Coghlan: The amendment provides that the regulator shall consist of a board comprising the members listed.

  Mr. Martin: That is not the amendment with which we are dealing.

  Mr. Coghlan: No.

  Mr. Martin: The Senator has proposed an amendment to a section of the Competition Act. The amendment proposes that section 30 of the Competition Act 2002 be amended.

  Mr. Coghlan: I am looking for my notes on it.

  Acting Chairman: The amendment is at the bottom of page 9 of the list of amendments and it is an amendment to page 67 of the Bill.

  Mr. Coghlan: I might hear the Minister’s response to it first.

  Mr. Martin: It is best practice on the part of enforcement agencies to cultivate complaints and make it clear, to inspire confidence, that complaints will be pursued vigorously. This is clearly the intention behind the amendment. However, I am of the view that a mandatory requirement on the Competition Authority of this kind is unsuitable for inclusion in legislation. It may be inappropriate, counterproductive and might cause a disclosure of unauthorised information or cause jeopardy to an ongoing investigation. In criminal investigations, for example, it would not be good practice to keep the complainant apprised of the status of the investigation beyond letting him or her know that the matter is being pursued. This is in keeping with the notion that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

This amendment relates to an amendment to the Competition Authority Act, even though we are dealing with the Consumer Protection Bill. As a general principle, I do not favour amending other Acts through this legislation.

On the specifics of the Senator’s amendment, the enforcement agencies must be at pains to make certain that specific details about a criminal investigation are kept confidential. While two recent convictions were obtained by the Competition Authority, if it had been keeping people apprised of the information in regard to them that could have jeopardised the success of those convictions.

It seems unwise to set up some expectation in legislation that might suggest some requirement to share anything with a complainant beyond the fact that the matter is under investigation. Moreover, the authority, in common with other enforcement agencies, is required to take an investigation in whatever direction is in the interests of enforcement of the law, which might at some point diverge from the interests of a complainant who had brought the matter to its attention.

[130] With regard to paragraph (b) of the proposed amendment, the Minister already has the power under section 30(2) of the Competition Act 2002 to request the authority to carry out studies and analysis and to specify deadlines within which such studies and analysis must be completed. For the information of the Senator, section 30(2) of the Competition Act 2002 states:

The Minister may request the Authority to carry out a study or analysis of any practice or method of competition affecting the supply and distribution of goods or the provision of services or any other matter relating to competition and submit a report to the Minister in relation to the study or analysis; the Authority shall comply with such a request within such period as the Minister may specify in the request.

Having said that, I repeat my earlier comment to the Senator regarding a review of the operation of the 2002 Competition Act on which my Department will embark during the current year. I will request again that the Senator’s proposal be borne in mind in the context of that review. In so far as the suggested change might be warranted, it would be preferable to include it as part of that comprehensive review rather than to amend the 2002 Act piecemeal through this legislation.

The best route for the Deputy to take in terms of amendments to the Competition Act would be to make a submission, embracing some of the amendments he tabled to this Bill, to the Department for consideration as part of that review. That would be a better way to deal with this proposal and it might also be useful from our point of view. I want to keep the Consumer Protection Act pure in so far as I can.

  Mr. Coghlan: I accept there is a slight conflict in our interests in this regard. The Minister said that the provision in the second part of this amendment is covered under existing legislation.

  Mr. Martin: Yes.

  Mr. Coghlan: I accept that. I assure the Minister that the intention of the provision in the first part of the amendment in keeping the complainant regularly informed is to do so without in any way breaching confidentiality. In the interests of the consumer, I believe I must press the amendment. I respect what the Minister said, but it is important in the interests of natural justice and equity that we do that.

  Mr. Martin: A fear in this respect arises in terms of what do we mean by keeping people regularly informed of progress.

  Mr. Coghlan: It is accepted that it would be done without in any way breaching confidentiality.

  Mr. Martin: In the case of a criminal investigation——

[131]   Mr. Coghlan: Where it would be unwise to do so.

  Mr. Martin: ——if evidence was inadvertently leaked to the complainant which found its way back to the person being pursued the investigation could simply be terminated there and then. That is the problem. I know that is not the Senator’s intention.

  Mr. Coghlan: No, it is not.

  Mr. Martin: However, it could be the effect of the inclusion of this amendment. We might consider the Senator’s proposal in general terms. It is not our intention that there should be no communication with the complainant. We might discuss this with the authority, which would have [132] experience of pursuing complaints to establish if there is a mechanism by which certain milestones could be articulated to the complainant, such as communicating that the authority is close to prosecuting or in general terms that it is making process. However, beyond that it cannot, by definition, go into much detail, otherwise it would compromise the investigation.

  Mr. Coghlan: With respect, I do not believe there is anything in the detail of this proposal that would have the effect of what the Minister is warning me to be fearful.

  Acting Chairman: Is the amendment being pressed?

  Mr. Coghlan: Yes.

Amendment put.

The Committee divided: Tá, 19; Níl, 26.

    Bradford, Paul.

    Browne, Fergal.

    Burke, Paddy.

    Burke, Ulick.

    Coghlan, Paul.

    Coonan, Noel.

    Cummins, Maurice.

    Feighan, Frank.

    Hayes, Brian.

    Henry, Mary.

    McHugh, Joe.

    Norris, David.

    O’Toole, Joe.

    Phelan, John.

    Quinn, Feargal.

    Ross, Shane.

    Ryan, Brendan.

    Terry, Sheila.

    Tuffy, Joanna.

Níl

    Bohan, Eddie.

    Brennan, Michael.

    Cox, Margaret.

    Daly, Brendan.

    Dardis, John.

    Feeney, Geraldine.

    Fitzgerald, Liam.

    Glynn, Camillus.

    Hanafin, John.

    Kenneally, Brendan.

    Kett, Tony.

    Kitt, Michael P.

    Leyden, Terry.

    Lydon, Donal J.

    Mansergh, Martin.

    Minihan, John.

    Mooney, Paschal C.

    Morrissey, Tom.

    Moylan, Pat.

    O’Brien, Francis.

    O’Rourke, Mary.

    Ormonde, Ann.

    Phelan, Kieran.

    Scanlon, Eamon.

    Walsh, Jim.

    White, Mary M.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Coghlan and Cummins; Níl, Senators Minihan and Moylan.

Amendment declared lost.

Sections 84 to 92, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 93.

Government amendment No. 36:

In page 71, line 10, to delete “of the Industrial Development Act 1993”.

  Mr. Martin: This is a technical amendment. The Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel has advised that the words “of the Industrial Development Act 1993” should be deleted because they are unnecessary.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 93, as amended, agreed to.

NEW SECTIONS.

Government amendment No. 37:

In page 71, before Schedule 1, to insert the following new section:

“94.—The following section is inserted after section 6 of the Casual Trading Act 1995:

“6A.—(1) The Minister may prepare and issue to local authorities guidelines, in writing, regarding the performance by them of their functions under section 6 in relation to bye-laws.

[133] (2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), guidelines under this section may include guidelines as to the particular provision that a local authority should make by bye-laws under section 6 in relation to each of the matters mentioned in subsection (2) of that section.

(3) Local authorities shall have regard to guidelines for the time being in force under this section in performing their functions under section 6 in relation to bye-laws.

(4) The Minister may amend or revoke, in writing, guidelines issued under this section.

(5) The Minister shall cause a copy of any guidelines issued under this section and of any amendment or revocation of them to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.”.”.

  Mr. Martin: We indicated on Second Stage and in public commentary that we would consider the issue being addressed in this amendment and introduce an amendment on Committee Stage. The Casual Trading Act 1995 requires those engaging in casual trading to hold a licence granted for that purpose by the local authority in the area where the trader operates. When the Competition Authority and the Consumer Strategy Group studied how the 1995 Act was being implemented by local authorities, they found there was a lack of consistency in the implementation of the legislation. They pointed out considerable variations in the fees being charged for licences by local authorities, for example, as well as differences in the facilities being provided.

The Consumer Strategy Group was strongly of the view that the lack of consistency was significantly inhibiting the growth of casual trading, thereby restricting consumer choice, in effect. The group recommended in its report that the Minister should be empowered to issue statutory guidelines obliging local authorities to apply a consistent approach when granting casual trading licences. This amendment, which proposes to include a new section 6A in the Casual Trading Act 1995, will allow the Minister to issue statutory guidelines, as recommended by the Consumer Strategy Group. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment issued non-statutory guidelines in this regard to local authorities in July 2005 and again in July 2006, with a view to their being implemented on a voluntary basis. If the voluntary guidelines do not result in a more consistent approach on the part of local authorities I will use the powers provided for in this amendment to make the necessary regulations to introduce statutory guidelines in this area.

  Mr. Leyden: I compliment the Minister for introducing this new section. The Minister will issue specific guidelines to local authorities to [134] ensure there is total consistency throughout the country. The trading regulations are currently implemented in an inconsistent manner. I refer to the long acre of sales, for example — the new phenomenon of selling cars on the side of the road. I am not sure whether this matter needs to be brought to the attention of the Department of Transport or the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

There used to be legislation that prohibited trading along main carriageways, such as national primary and secondary routes. A significant proportion of the legislation that has been passed by these Houses over the years has to be enforced by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. I presume the Department sometimes finds it difficult to keep abreast of the various regulations. I recall the introduction of a Bill some years ago — I am not sure whether I was in this House at the time — to prohibit a form of trading that was being quite extensively pursued. Trading is taking place in home produce, which is fair enough, but I am not sure whether cars should be sold in the same way.

When I was coming to Dublin yesterday, I saw three or four cars being sold at various areas of greenery. Nobody controls the ownership of such cars. If one wants to buy one of these cars, one has to telephone a number displayed on it. When the person selling the car arrives, one does not get any background information about the car — one does not learn about regulations or the condition of the car. One does not even know if the person selling the car is genuine. While I have not been contacted by legitimate traders about this matter, I imagine their business is being affected by it.

When the Minister travels around the country he probably sees cars being sold at dangerous corners. When he gets a chance to examine the regulations on Report Stage perhaps he can deal with the problem in this new section, which deals with casual trading. Local authorities should be able, by means of by-laws or otherwise, to control the use of sidings and sections of roundabouts for the sale of cars. I even came across the sale of a large cruiser boat on the side of the road in County Mayo. We do not want to be too prohibitive — I have no objection to people selling their cars in front of their own houses, or near their own property, because they have an entitlement to do so. In such circumstances, at least one knows who is selling the product one is buying and one can contact that person if there is a problem.

I do not want to further complicate this legislation. The Minister and his officials are doing an excellent job of tweaking this comprehensive Bill to see how far they can develop it. I ask the Minister to examine the older legislation which relates to trading on major roads in advance of Report Stage. Perhaps some of the existing regulations can be strengthened to empower the local authorities to control the ongoing problem of trading on national roads.

[135]   Mr. Martin: As I mentioned earlier, some of the amendments I have agreed to consider will be dealt with in the Dáil. I will return to the Seanad to update it on what has been agreed in the Dáil. The sale of cars on roadsides is essentially a matter for the local authorities in the first instance. The Garda has a specific role in implementing the Road Traffic Acts if road safety issues arise in this context. This amendment is giving us the statutory power to issue guidelines to local authorities in respect of casual trading.

  Mr. Leyden: Yes.

  Mr. Martin: It is not beyond our capacity to ensure that the guidelines reflect the issues which have been raised by Senator Leyden.

  Mr. Leyden: That is excellent. I thank the Minister.

  Mr. Martin: We are trying to provide for uniformity throughout the country.

  Mr. Leyden: Yes, that is good.

  Mr. Coghlan: It is very important.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 38:

In page 71, before Schedule 1, to insert the following new section:

“95.—The following sections are substituted for sections 5 and 6 of the Hallmarking Act 1981:

“5.—(1) Subject to section 6 of this Act, a commercial practice that involves a representation that an article which is not of precious metal is made wholly or partly of gold, silver or platinum is a misleading commercial practice under section 42(1) and (2) of the Consumer Protection Act 2007.

(2) A trader who engages in any misleading commercial practice described in subsection (1) is guilty of an offence under section 46 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007.

6.—(1) Section 5 of this Act does not apply to a representation which is permissible under this Act.

(2) A representation is permissible under this Act if it complies with the following conditions:

(a) it is confined either expressly or by implication to the colour of the article;

(b) if it consists of or includes the word ‘gold’, that word is qualified by the word ‘plated’ or the word ‘rolled’;

(c) if it consists of or includes the word ‘silver’ or the word ‘platinum’, whichever of those words is used is qualified by the word ‘plated’;

[136] (d) where the representation is in writing and the word ‘plated’ or ‘rolled’ is used, that word is at least as large as the rest of the representation.

(3) Subsection (2) of this section does not apply if the representation is false or is applied to an article for which the representation is inappropriate.

6A.—In sections 5 and 6 of this Act, ‘commercial practice’, ‘representation’ and ‘trader’ have the same meaning as they have in the Consumer Protection Act 2007.”.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 39:

In page 71, before Schedule 1, to insert the following new section:

“96.—For the purpose of facilitating the performance by the Agency of any functions conferred on it by any of the relevant statutory provisions relating to the safety of products, an officer of customs and excise , when authorised to do so by the Revenue Commissioners following a written request in that behalf by the Agency, may detain any goods being imported for such period as is reasonably necessary for the Agency to examine the goods, or arrange to have the goods examined, which period shall not in any case exceed 72 hours from the time when the goods concerned are detained.”.

  Mr. Martin: I indicated on Second Stage that I would introduce this amendment on Committee Stage. This new section, which is based on section 87 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, relates to the powers of the National Consumer Agency regarding product safety. Power to enforce product safety regulations is already vested in the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs and will transfer to the agency on establishment day.

4 o’clock

The amendment is designed to give power to the agency to request the Revenue Commissioners to detain any product for a period not longer than 72 hours so that it can be examined by the agency. While widespread use of this provision is not envisaged, it provides a useful precautionary power should the agency wish to intervene as regards the importation of an unsafe product from any country. The section covers products imported from any country, not limited to third countries, but any request to the Revenue Commissioners would necessarily have to take account of legislation related to the free movement of goods. In this regard the section limits itself to the action necessary to detain a product. Any action to be taken following examination of a detained product would be carried out in accordance with the powers contained in the relevant statutory provisions.

[137] The section is intended to also include products which do not comply with European Union or national rules in force on product safety, including the rules and laws relating to documentation or marking. We cannot be too careful when it comes to issues pertaining to product safety and this is a useful provision in that regard.

  Mr. Leyden: I commend the Minister and the Department for bringing forward this worthwhile Bill. Would the Revenue Commissioners not alert the Department as opposed to the Department alerting the Revenue Commissioners? If material is coming through, would our sources of information be the licensed importer of the goods? How would the modus operandi work?

  Mr. Martin: It is often when the consumer item is on the shelf or perhaps another country may have had experience of a certain product and the consumer agency may be alerted to the unsafe nature of a particular product. Other jurisdictions might alert our agency. There will be some degree of international co-operation between agencies. It is often the case, particularly at Christmas, that a particular product could be on the shelves. Word will come through that the product is unsafe and this is a way of nipping things in the bud and preventing any further distribution into the marketplace. Very often the agency would have the authority to inform the Revenue Commissioners and ask them to detain the product.

Amendment agreed to.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 40, 46 and 47 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 40:

In page 71, before Schedule 1, to insert the following new section:

“97.—(1) A certificate in writing purporting to be signed by a person employed in a relevant laboratory and stating the results of one or more tests carried out in that laboratory with respect to a product of a specified type shall, without proof of the signature of that person or that he or she is employed in the relevant laboratory, be admissible as evidence of the results of the test or tests in the following proceedings taken in relation to that type of product.

(2) Those proceedings are proceedings under any of the statutory instruments specified in Schedule 6.

(3) In this section ‘relevant laboratory’ means a laboratory the competence of which to carry out tests in relation to products is recognised by an authority performing functions under the laws, regulations or administrative provisions adopted by a Member State for the [138] purposes of any of the Directives specified in Schedule 7.

(4) Where a certificate referred to in subsection (1) is produced in proceedings referred to in subsection (2), it shall be presumed, until the contrary is shown, that the laboratory referred to in the certificate as a relevant laboratory is such a laboratory.”.

  Mr. Martin: This amendment relates to the powers of the National Consumer Agency with regard to product safety. The intention of this new section is to allow for the purposes of any proceedings under any of the statutory instruments specified in Schedule 6 the admissibility in evidence of the results of tests carried out by any laboratory recognised by any designated authority. The designated authorities in question are those specified under any of the European Union directives listed in Schedule 7. The section provides that the National Consumer Agency, in determining whether any product is unsafe or poses a serious risk to consumers, may have regard to a test carried out on the product by a laboratory recognised by any competent authority in any of the member states of the European Community. It is a straightforward amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

SCHEDULE 1.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 are related and may be taken together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 41:

In page 71, to delete lines 40 and 41.

  Mr. Martin: The Director of Consumer Affairs exercises no functions under the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2003. There is no need, consequently, for this Act to feature in the list of enactments in Part 1 of the Schedule for which the national consumer agency will assume responsibility for functions now exercised by the director. The Director of Consumer Affairs exercises functions, however, under the European Communities (Distance Marketing of Consumer Financial Services) Regulations 2004 and it is consequently necessary to include this instrument in the list of enactments in Part 2 of this Schedule.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 42:

In page 73, between lines 46 and 47, to insert the following:

[139]

S.I. No. 853 of 2004

European Communities (Distance Marketing of Consumer Financial Services) Regulations 2004

”.

Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

NEW SCHEDULES.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment No. 43 has already been discussed with amendment No. 4. Acceptance of this amendment involves the deletion of Schedule 2.

Government amendment No. 43:

In page 74, before Schedule 2, to insert the following new Schedule:

SCHEDULE 2

Repeals

Session and Chapter or Number and Year

Short Title

Extent of Repeal

(1)

(2)

(3)

50 & 51 Vic., c. 28

Merchandise Marks Act 1887

The whole Act

54 & 55 Vic., c. 15

Merchandise Marks Act 1891

The whole Act

1 & 2 Geo. 5., c. 31

Merchandise Marks Act 1911

The whole Act

5 & 6 Geo. 5., c. 1

Anglo-Portuguese Commercial Treaty Act 1914

The whole Act

6 & 7 Geo. 5., c. 39

Anglo-Portuguese Commercial Treaty Act 1916

The whole Act

No. 10 of 1930

Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Act 1930

Section 27(4) and (5)

No. 35 of 1930

Portuguese Treaty Act 1930

The whole Act

No. 26 of 1931

Agricultural Produce (Potatoes) Act 1931

Section 19(4) and (5)

No. 48 of 1931

Merchandise Marks Act 1931

The whole Act

No. 6 of 1936

Spanish Trade Agreement Act 1936

The whole Act

No. 14 of 1955

Seed Production Act 1955

Section 22(3)

No. 4 of 1958

Prices Act 1958

The whole Act, except to the extent specified in section 89

[140] No. 25 of 1968

Road Traffic Act 1968

Section 14(1), (2) and (3)

No. 20 of 1972

Prices (Amendment) Act 1972

The whole Act

No. 1 of 1978

Consumer Information Act 1978

The whole Act

No. 11 of 1980

Packaged Goods (Quantity Control) Act 1980

Section 12(1)

No. 27 of 1980

Pyramid Selling Act 1980

The whole Act

No. 31 of 1987

Restrictive Practices (Amendment) Act 1987

The whole Act

No. 28 of 1996

National Standards Authority of Ireland Act 1996

Section 19(3) and 21(7)

”.

Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 deleted.

Government amendment No 44:

In page 74, before Schedule 3, to insert the following new Schedule:

SCHEDULE 3

References in Certain Acts and Instruments to Director or Office of Director

PART 1

References in Certain Acts to Director of Consumer Affairs or Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs

Short Title, Number and Year

Provision affected

Amendment

(1)

(2)

(3)

Ombudsman Act 1980 (No. 26 of 1980)

First Schedule Second Schedule

In Part II, delete “the Director of Consumer Affairs”.Insert “National Consumer Agency”.

National Archives Act 1986 (No. 11 of 1986)

Schedule

Substitute “National Consumer Agency” for “Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs”.

[141] Prompt Payment of Accounts Act 1997 (No. 31 of 1997)

Schedule

Substitute “National Consumer Agency” for “the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs”.

Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (No. 39 of 1997)

Schedule 13

Substitute the following for paragraph 112 (inserted by section 14 of the Finance Act 2001):“112. National ConsumerAgency.”.

Electronic Commerce Act 2000 (No. 27 of 2000)

Section 15

Substitute “role of the National Consumer Agency” for “role of the Director of Consumer Affairs”.

Competition Act 2002 (No. 14 of 2002)

Schedule 1 (as amended by the Competition Act 2002 (Section 34(11)) (Director of Consumer Affairs) Order 2003 (S.I. No. 130 of 2003)

In column (1), substitute “National Consumer Agency” for “Director of Consumer Affairs”.

Ombudsman for Children Act 2002 (No. 22 of 2002)

Schedule 1

In Part 2, substitute “National Consumer Agency” for “Director of Consumer Affairs”.

Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 (No. 46 of 2003)

Section 56(6)

Substitute “the chief executive of the National Consumer Agency” for “the Director of Consumer Affairs”.

Official Languages Act 2003 (No. 32 of 2003)

First Schedule

In paragraph 1—(a) in subparagraph (1), delete “Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs”, and (b) in subparagraph (2), insert “National Consumer Agency”.

Veterinary Practice Act 2005 (No. 22 of 2005)

Section 16(1)

Substitute the following for paragraph (g): “(g) one person who is nominated for such appointment by the National Consumer Agency,”.

[142] PART 2

References in Certain Instruments to Director of Consumer Affairs or Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs

Citation, Number and Year

Provision affected

Amendment

(1)

(2)

(3)

Air Quality Standards Regulations 2002 (S.I. No. 271 of 2002)

Schedule 14

Substitute the following for paragraph (6): “(6) National ConsumerAgency”.

Genetically Modified Organisms (Deliberate Release) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 500 of 2003)

Regulation 62(1)

(a) Substitute the following for paragraph (g): “(g) the National ConsumerAgency,”. (b) In paragraph (j), substitute “the National Consumer Agency” for the Office of the Directorof Consumer Affairs”.

Ozone in Ambient Air Regulations 2004 (S.I. No. 53 of 2004)

Schedule 10

Substitute the following for paragraph (6): “(6) National Consumer Agency”.

Investor Compensation Act 1998 (Section 18(4)) (Prescription of Bodies and Individuals) Regulations 2004 (S.I. No. 570 of 2004)

Regulation 2

Substitute the following for paragraph (b): “(b) the National Consumer Agency;”.

Finance Act 1993 (Section 60) Regulations 2005 (S.I. No. 846 of 2005)

Schedule

Substitute “National Consumer Agency” for “Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs”.

”.

Amendment agreed to.

SCHEDULE 3.

Government amendment No. 45:

In page 74, column 2, line 24, to Delete “Travel” where it firstly occurs and substitute “Holidays”.

[143]   Mr. Martin: The purpose of this technical amendment is to correct the title of the Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act 1995 which was incorrectly recorded in Schedule 3.

Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

Schedules 4 and 5 agreed to.

NEW SCHEDULES.

Government amendment No. 46:

In page 77, after line 18, to insert the following new Schedule:

“SCHEDULE 6

Statutory Instruments for the Purposes of section 97 (admissibility of laboratory tests)”.

Number and Year

Citation

S.I. No. 32 of 1990

European Communities (Safety of Toys) Regulations 1990

S.I. No. 101 of 1992

European Communities (Appliances Burning Gaseous Fuels) Regulations 1992

S.I. No. 482 of 1992

European Communities (Low Voltage Electrical Equipment) Regulations 1992

S.I. No. 272 of 1993

European Communities (Personal Protective Equipment) Regulations 1993

S.I. No. 199 of 2004

European Communities (General Product Safety) Regulations 2004

”.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 47:

In page 77, after line 18, to insert the following new Schedule:

SCHEDULE 7

Directives for the purpose of section 97 (admissibility of laboratory tests)

Council Directive 73/23/EEC of 19 February 1973 on the harmonization of the laws of Member States relating to electrical equipment designed for use within certain voltage limits

Council Directive 88/378/EEC of 3 May 1988 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States concerning the safety of toys

Council Directive 89/686/EEC of 21 December 1989 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to personal protective equipment

[144] Council Directive 90/396/EEC of 29 June 1990 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to appliances burning gaseous fuels

Directive 2001/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 December 2001 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to general product safety.”.

Amendment agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

  Mr. Leyden: Now.

  An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Is that agreed? Agreed.