Cyber Monday and Online Purchases What are your rights?

It is predicted that 42% of Irish Consumers plan to shop the Cyber Monday sales this year, an increase of 10% on 2021, with the most popular purchase to be electronic.  But what happens when you are not happy with your purchase? What are your rights under Irish Law?

Under S.I. 484 / 2013 EU (Consumer Information, Cancellation and Other Rights) Regulations 2003 a consumer can return an item purchased online from any Company based in the EU within 14 days of purchase. This is known as the consumer’s right to a cooling off period and the item can be returned within 14 days from the date of receiving the item, with no explanation required (provided that the item purchased was not personalized for the consumer by the Company).

Regulation 2 of the 2013 Regulations defines a ‘consumer’ as a natural person who is acting for purposes which are outside the person’s trade, business, craft or profession. Conversely, a ‘trader’ is a natural or legal person who is acting for purposes related to their trade, business or profession.

The 2013 Regulations provide that consumers have a ‘cooling-off period’ within which they can decide to cancel the contract. This period is 14 days from the date of conclusion of the contract, save for sales contracts, where the period begins when the consumer receives the goods. Consequently, a consumer must be reimbursed for the money paid if they gave notice to the Company within 14 days to the effect that they would like to cancel the contract. Should the consumer invoke their right of cancellation, they must return the item to the Company within 14 days, unless the Company agrees to collect it. Either way, the Company must reimburse the Consumer for their costs of returning the item (Regulation 20(2)).

If the Company resists any cancellation pursuant to the above regulations, the consumer can seek enforcement by way of District Court Proceedings (via the small claims procedure if less than €5,000) and also issue a complaint to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and to the European Consumer Centre.

HSE DATA BREACH – NOVEMBER 2022 UPDATE

 

The recent ransomware attack on the HSE I.T. systems causing Hospitals and G.P practices to shut down some 18 months ago has once again been the highlight of media reports in the last few weeks.  While the focus has been the immediate disruption caused, the potential exposure of sensitive citizens data is now well known.

Data breaches by the HSE are not uncommon.  In February of this year, a new Covid-19 vaccination rollout I.T. system was established and backed by Salesforce CRM and IBM who won a State Tender to provide the service.  However due to 52 data access points within the system, a significant data breach occurred mainly due to employee error.

Furthermore, it was reported recently that warnings were made about “weaknesses” in the Health Service Executive’s computer systems three years ago.  Issues were identified with “security controls” and “disaster recovery protocols” by internal audits which were flagged in HSE annual reports for two years in a row.

The HSE have commenced contacting those affected (approximately 112,000 individuals) with the first 300 being contacted this month.  The HSE have allowed themselves until April 2023 to contact all those affected.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE IRISH PUBLIC?

 

Due to the ransomware attacks and previous data breaches, an enormous amount of sensitive data to include PPS Numbers, date of births and other personal records can be sold online on the Dark Web to the highest bidder who with the use of social engineering can use this information for fraudulent purposes at a significant cost to the victims whose data has been used in this way.   For such victims, the main recourse is to pursue a claim under the GDPR Regulations which are governed in Ireland under the Data Protection Act 2018.

There are two avenues of complaint:

  1. A complaint to the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC)

As the DPC can reach findings about whether there has been a breach, the DPC cannot award compensation but if liability is in question, then the DPC may be able to clarify the matter before proceedings are issued.

  1. A Data Protection Action in either the Circuit Court or High Court under S.117 Data Protection Act 2018.

 

Under GDPR a data controller or a data processor such as the HSE must contact you and inform you that your personal data has been breached.  However due to the recent media coverage it may be disproportionate for the HSE to establish contact.  If you believe your data has been breached, you should contact the HSE directly to clarify whether it has.

 

Prior to the GDPR, the Irish High Court held that only material damage was compensable.  However, Article 82 of the GDPR establishes a right to compensation for a data subject who has suffered either material or non- material damages as a result of the breach.  Such loss has been difficult to quantify but recent persuasive UK Authorities have ruled that compensation can be awarded for loss of control over personal data, even where there was no pecuniary damage or distress.   However, in Ireland, it will be necessary to show such loss from a psychological point of view.  The Irish Courts have repeatedly ruled that upset or distress short of psychiatric injury is not recoverable in tort. Therefore, you would have to make a claim through the Personal Injury Assessment Board for a claim for such injury and to do so within 2 years despite the fact that the GDPR statute allows for 6 years.  It may be the case that any such data used for fraudulent purposes will allow one 6 years to take a case to the Circuit or High Court for material damage.

 

In the last month, the HSE has started to contact the 112,000 individuals affected by this and have allowed themselves until April 2023 to notify those affected.  This is alarming to say the least as personal data can be used to create fake bank account, PPS Numbers and fake identities for numerous criminal activities with a potential personal financial loss for those affected.

 

If you have been affected and have been contacted by the HSE, then do not hesitate to contact us on 021 2390620 or email: anthony.shields@mdmsolicitors.ie and a member of our specialised privacy and data protection experts will be able to advise you.

 

When may a Court grant a divorce?

Benjamin Franklin said nothing is certain except death and taxes.  From a family law point of view nothing is certain except death and divorce since only the death of a spouse or a divorce can end a marriage.  But when may a Court grant a divorce?

The Family Law (Divorce) Act, 1996 governs divorces, and provides that a Court may grant a divorce order only if:

(a)        at the date of the institution of divorce proceedings, the spouses have lived apart from one another for a period of, or periods amounting to at least two years during the previous three years,

(b)        there is no reasonable prospect of a reconciliation between the spouses, and

(c)        proper provision exists or can be made for the spouses and any dependent members of the family if the divorce.

These requirements must be read together, in other words all three must be present for the Court to exercise its discretion to grant a divorce order or not.

According to the Court Services 2020 Annual Report there was an increase of 29% in the number of divorce applications in 2020 compared to 2019.  In 2020 there were 5,266 divorce applications, 1193 more than in 2019.  The reason behind this increase was the reduction in the waiting period for a period of, or periods amounting to at least two years during the previous three years compared to four years during the previous five years prior to the change in December 2019.

Note that the term “living apart” is given a very specific meaning for the purpose of a divorce, and a spouse can satisfy this requirement even if they continue to live together in the same dwelling.  The two-year waiting period is therefore not triggered by actually separating but would generally start much earlier whilst the parties still lived together under the same roof, albeit not as happily married spouses generally would.

The second requirement is effectively the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.  The Court must be satisfied that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation of a normal marriage relationship between them.  This breakdown can be caused by many reasons, for example infidelity, the parties may have lost the love and affection for one another, and also the attitude of the parties towards continuing with the marriage.

Thirdly the parties and their dependents must be properly provided for following the divorce. A Court will for example consider the financial needs of the spouses and dependents and their income, their earning capacity (if any), property and other financial resources to determine if all the parties will be properly provided for after the divorce.  If not, a divorce order will not be granted.

If you need any advice on getting divorced, kindly email Carrie McDermott at carrie.mcdermott@mdmsolicitors.ie or Mornè Gouws at morne.gouws@mdmsolicitors.ie.

Reform of the Occupiers Liability Act 1995 and the Duty of Care

The Occupiers Liability Act 1995 is a governing legislation in respect of the duty a Business owes to a Visitor who enters onto its premises.  The Civil Liability Act 1961 states that for an Occupier of a premises to be relieved from this duty a written Agreement between the Occupier and the Visitor must be entered into.  The law therefore in that regard had been interpreted strongly in favour of the Visitor in the event that any accident befalls the Visitor.  Changes to the law on Duty of Care have been proposed as part of the Government’s general commitment to Insurance reform in Ireland.  Small and medium size Businesses have been complaining for over a decade that Insurance costs are prohibitive to doing business in Ireland and the reform of the Duty of Care contained under the Occupiers Liability Act is part of the Government’s initiative to bring down Insurance costs for business sectors.  There are four proposed changes set out in the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill of 2022 which has been introduced by Minister McEntee in recent months.  The four keys areas of reform can be summarised as follows: –

  1. A rebalancing of the Duty of Care owed by Occupiers to Visitors and recreational users.
  2. A change to the standard of clarity in respect of when the Occupier of a property has acted with reckless disregard to a Visitor or Customer.
  3. The circumstances where a Court can impose liability on the Occupier where a person is  unlawfully entered onto a premises for the purposes of committing an offence will be limited.
  4. Where a Visitor or Customer voluntarily assumes a risk such an assumption will be set out in the amendments to the Act and liability arising therefrom will be curtailed.  The proposed Bill will most likely go before the Oireachtas for enactment after the Summer recess break.

For further information please contact MDM Solicitors on 021 239 0620

Distressed Assets: Possession and Damages

PATRICK HENNESSY V KEN TYRELL & EVERYDAY FINANCE DESIGNATED ACTIVITY COMPANY

This case was an emergency interlocutory application by the Plaintiff to prevent the Receiver Ken Tyrell and Everyday Finance from taking possession and selling his lands and from prohibiting an on-line action.  The urgency was that there was an auction scheduled to take place imminently.

By way of background the purchase of the property was funded by a loan from AIB and secured by a Charge over the lands.  The Plaintiff failed to meet his obligations in November 2016 and while he engaged with AIB, the loans were eventually transferred in 2019 to Everyday Finance.  Further engagement ensued between the Plaintiff and Everyday Finance however no resolution was found.

In September 2021 Everyday appointed Ken Tyrell as Receiver.  The Receiver’s power was limited to collection of the rents and profits.  The Plaintiff and his brother had a company called Hennessy Brothers Farming Limited which had licences to farm most of the lands subject to a €50,000 per annum payment which included a licence fee which was not paid over to the Receiver.  The Plaintiffs were unable to pay their debts or secure a restructuring of their debts.

The application for the injunction involved the restraining of the sale in the manner proposed by the Receiver and Everyday.  It was not contested that Everyday had a power of sale or that the power had arisen or that it was exercisable.  The Plaintiff said that he was shocked to be told that his lands were advertised for sale on a website.  The land appeared to have been first advertised for sale in early February 2022 with an auction date for the 24th February 2022 and the advertising campaign appeared to have been limited to those who might stumble on the listing on the website.

The Judge ultimately concluded that he did not believe that damages would be an adequate remedy.   Judge Allen referred to the issue of Everyday attempting to sell the lands with the Plaintiff in possession, but he did not go as far to say that Everyday were not entitled to offer the lands for sale without vacant possession.

Ultimately the Court concluded by granting the Orders sought essentially preventing the sale of the charged lands.  The Court did make directions to ensure the expedient exchange of Pleadings and early Trial date to minimise the risk of injustice to either party.