Ireland’s consumer protection regulatory authority, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (“CCPC”) recently published its Annual Report for the period 01/01/2022 – 31/12/2022 (the “Report”).
The Irish consumer protection regulatory landscape has recently undergone significant change, with the enactment of the Consumer Rights Act 2022 in late 2022, and will be further complicated by the coming into force of the Digital Services Act and the Representative Actions for Protection of the Collective Interests of Consumers Act (which transposes the Collective Redress Directive in Ireland – see our update here). These pieces of legislation bring increased penalties for infringement of consumer rights online. Notably, the Collective Redress Directive provides for the ability of ‘qualified entities’ to bring representative actions to protect the collective interests of consumers in different Member States.
We have outlined briefly a number of topics in the Report below, which are of particular relevance for consumer-facing businesses operating online:
Focus on Digital Regulation: The Report states that in 2022, the CCPC was a founding member of Ireland’s first Digital Regulators Group, whose aim is to ensure that digital legislation is applied in a consistent and cohesive manner in Ireland.
The CCPC also took part in extensive engagement to prepare for the commencement of the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act in 2023, including engagement with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the European Commission and national and international counterparts, to learn from their experiences with digital regulation, to ensure consumers have stronger online protections.
Enforcement Actions aimed at Online Businesses: The Report outlines that online shopping remains a priority area for the CCPC. The CCPC carried out online inspections of 50 businesses, through which 194 breaches of a wide range of consumer protection law were identified. The CCPC engaged with these businesses and 49 of these were re-inspected. The Report notes that by the end of 2022, 141 of the breaches had been rectified. 8 compliance notices related to online shopping were issued where traders failed to rectify issues following engagement by the CCPC. These traders had provided inaccurate or misleading information to consumers about their rights, and had not provided the correct cancellation period.
Co-operation with other Consumer Protection Regulators: The CCPC outlines numerous instances of co-operation with other consumer protection authorities in the Report, including its co-leadership of a formal EU Consumer Protection Cooperation dialogue with TikTok, in which it secured 29 commitments on reinforced consumer protections on the platform. The CCPC also participated in an EU-wide sweep on dark patterns, as part of which it reviewed 16 websites in Ireland (more on this can be read here).
These examples show that businesses operating online should bear in mind that increased coordination of consumer protection regulatory authorities is likely.
Future Enforcement Action on Consumer Rights Act 2022: The Report notes that enforcement actions regarding the Consumer Rights Act 2022, having been commenced in November 2022, will feature in future Consumer Protection Lists, indicating that this is an area the CCPC is focusing on.