In this Horizon Tracker, we have collated legislative and regulatory developments relevant to consumer protection from a range of different practice areas ranging from Data Protection to Financial Services and on to Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution. Consumer protection seems to be at the core of so many developments it seemed like an appropriate category of reference.
In relation to digital services, a number of EU initiatives are intended to ensure better access for consumers and businesses to online goods and services across Europe, exemplified by the removal of anti-competitive barriers to cross-border e-commerce and access to online content. There is also a policy drive to address concerns in relation to data protection and e-privacy and to ensure further transparency around conditions of service and operation of online platforms. Please consult our section on Data Protection and Privacy.
From a competition law point of view we describe, amongst other developments, the transposition of the ECN+ Directive under the Competition (Amendment) Act 2022 which harmonises the enforcement of EU competition law across the EU and bolsters the enforcement powers of national competition authorities. In Ireland, these include the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, the Commission for Communications Regulation, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the courts. The act introduces administrative fining powers for the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission as well as the establishment of a leniency, or ‘whistle-blower’ programme.
In the Financial Services area there are a range of initiatives seeking to protect consumers. For example the Central Bank communicated by Dear CEO letter to all regulated firms advising actions to protect consumers in light of the changing economic landscape. Further review of the Consumer Protection code is ongoing. These matters are discussed further in our Financial Services sections.
Finally of significance, and described further in our Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution section, is the prioritising of the Representative Actions for the Protection of the Collective Interests of Consumers Bill 2022 implementing the Representative Actions Directive (Directive 2020/1828), which will have the effect of introducing the possibility of class action litigation by consumers against corporates affecting a wide range of consumer-facing industries. This is the first step in further initiatives in legalising class actions generally in Ireland.