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Representative Actions: Designation of Ireland’s first ‘Qualified Entity’

Disputes & Investigations

Representative Actions: Designation of Ireland’s first ‘Qualified Entity’

Fri 14 Jun 2024

5 min read

Following on from the commencement of the Representative Actions for the Protection of the Collective Interests of Consumers Act 2023 (the Act) on 30 April 2024 and the publication of the application form for organisations wishing to be designated as ‘Qualified Entities’ (QE) (details in our last bulletin), the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is the first entity to be designated as a QE in Ireland. This paves the way for representative actions to be taken in the Irish courts by ICCL.

Who are the ICCL?

The ICCL is an independent human rights organisation, established in 1976, which states that its aim is to “defend and promote the rights of everyone in Ireland”. The ICCL’s activity covers a broad range of human rights issues from ‘equality and discrimination’ to ‘administration of justice’. It hasn’t to date had a specific focus on consumer law issues, but is vocal in relation to ‘digital and data rights’, which is significant given that the GDPR is within scope for representative actions.

While the ICCL appears on the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment’s register of QEs in Ireland, it does not at the time of writing appear on the European Commission’s register of cross-border QEs.

Implications for businesses?

This is undoubtedly another milestone in the journey towards collective redress in Ireland and we expect other organisations with different areas of focus to apply for designation as QEs in Ireland in the coming months. However, questions remain concerning the funding of representative actions in this jurisdiction. The output of the Law Reform Commission’s consultation process (see our most recent update here) will likely result in legislative reform that would facilitate funding of representative actions.

Assuming that current difficulties with funding are likely to be overcome, companies should bear in mind that the Representative Actions Act “applies to representative actions brought on or after 25 June 2023 in respect of infringements by traders occurring on or after that date that harm or may harm the collective interests of consumers”. Given that the statutory limitation period could be up to six years for many representative actions, QEs will very likely be in time to commence a representative action for breaches occurring prior to the resolution of the funding issue. For this reason, if they have not already assessed the impact for their businesses, companies should ensure that they understand the breadth of the laws which fall within the scope of the Representative Actions Act 2023 (as a reminder, it’s not just ‘pure’ consumer law, it includes the GDPR and a range of sector specific legislation including product liability, travel, food law, financial services and payments).The full list is set out in the Schedule to the Representative Actions Act and the Annex to the underlying EU Directive.

For more information in relation to this topic, please contact Denise Daly Byrne, Senior Associate, Orla Clayton, Knowledge Consultant, or your usual A&L Goodbody Disputes and Investigations team contact.

Date published: 14 June 2024

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