Consumer Information Bill, 1976: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That section 7, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I was speaking last evening about subsection (7) (2) (f) and the difficulties that that creates about indicating the charge for installing goods. The Parliamentary Secretary agreed that many problems were raised by the drafting of paragraph (f) which is not clear to say the least of it. He agreed that, while we do not have an amendment to it now, he would amend it on Report Stage in an endeavour to meet the problems I outlined. Perhaps one of the ways that might be done would be to take out paragraph (f) altogether. I am not certain that it is really workable in relation to a great many items which, quite obviously, entail an installation charge.

Another matter arises under paragraph (e) of subsection (2) where an advertisement appears from a national chain, if one could call it such, of supermarkets having branches in more than one city or town showing the price of a particular commodity. As I understand it, the obligation will be on them to charge the same price in that chain everywhere in the country. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to confirm that my understanding of paragraph (e) is correct. It is important that this be done because some of these chains of supermarkets tend to charge a lower price in some areas than in others for particular commodities. Perhaps this may be caused on some occasions by the fact that locally obtainable produce might be cheaper in one area than another. It would be helpful to consumers generally if it could be enforced that the price of a particular commodity be the same in every branch within the State of a particular firm or supermarket.

I understand the situation is that if the chain publishes an advertisement which could reasonably be construed as applying to all branches of the chain, then it must so apply. Of course, they can, if they wish, insert an advertisement which is clearly understood to refer only to a particular shop in the chain.

So far as the points raised by Deputy O'Malley on subsection (f) are concerned, I have been thinking about the matter overnight. I do agree with him, as I said, that it is difficult exactly to limit the effect of this subsection, as drafted. It could apply to situations in which it would be very difficult to determine what were the ancillary goods—for instance, in so far as one needs a tank of petrol to set a car in motion should the price of the first fill be included is a question that could create difficulties. I would prefer on Report Stage to remove the subsection and make specific requirements in relation to the areas where abuse can arise under the provisions of section 10 of the Bill which deals with marking orders. In that case one can introduce by order —which would have to be discussed in the House again—specific requirements either in relation to all goods or to particular goods. Probably it would be the latter if one were dealing with the matter covered in subsection (f) of this section.

Again, on this section a person indicating the price or charge for goods, services or accommodation will commit an offence if such is false or misleading. One question in respect of which a great many people are frequently misled is that of whether or not VAT is included in a price. The practice appears to vary in this respect. Most firms quote an inclusive price; some tend to add VAT afterwards. It is noticeable particularly in hotels where there is the further complication in that some of them add a service charge of 10 per cent, 12½ per cent, sometimes 15 per cent. More of them do not. Most Irish people are not seriously misled because they tend to expect this but it is a frequent cause of complaint amongst foreign visitors that the practice here varies so greatly. For example, if a hotel advertises that it offers accommodation, say, bed and breakfast, at £7 a night many foreigners believe that that is what they have to pay and are rather taken aback to find that they end up paying approximately £9 because VAT has been added to the £7 at, I think, 10 per cent and additionally a service charge is added at rates which vary between 10 per cent and 15 per cent. This often means that the price of the accommodation is approximately 25 per cent higher than they might reasonably have anticipated. It seems to me that this is the type of section which should lay down some guidelines for that type of situation which is very misleading to the public generally and particularly to foreign visitors. The degree of error, if one may put it this way, to which a person can be subjected can be as much as 25 per cent, which is significant. In other words, it has to be made clear whether VAT or its equivalent or a service charge has been included or has to be added. If these items have to be added, it must be indicated. That is not so here, and it would be helpful if there was some provision in the Bill to ensure that it would be done. The section does not appear to include it, although it should be provided in some way. I appreciate it would create difficulties in certain respects but it is important it should be done if at all possible.

Another matter the Parliamentary Secretary should bear in mind is that the section does not apply charges to goods. It applies to services and accommodation. I have been talking about accommodation, including hotels and such like, but in relation to services, it would apply to professional services. Somebody may indicate that he believes he can provide a particular professional service at a particular rate and he does not want to see a situation developing in which he is liable to prosecution if he charges a different rate.

As somebody who has practised for many years, I can say that one often embarks on a task in the belief that it would take a certain amount of work in a certain time only to discover when half way through that there was some complication which necessitates a great deal more work and consequently a higher charge. On a strict reading of the section, it is quite possible that somebody who finds himself in that situation, a doctor, a vet, a solicitor or a barrister, conceivably can be prosecuted. The Parliamentary Secretary will agree that that would be undesirable and unfair in such circumstances and, therefore, it would be better to have some from of amendment to make it clear that somebody in that situation would not be liable to prosecution and that there would be no question of his contravening the section if he found he had to revise his charge for the particular service due to circumstances of which he had been unaware when he commenced the service.

For instance, some types of professional services may go on for many years through nobody's fault and it may well be that the rate of charge appropriate at the end of the service would be significantly higher than when the task was originally undertaken. As well, some allowance should be made in these days of excessive inflation for that type of situation. I should be glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary's views on such problems.

The difficulties in relation to VAT and service charges and the need to have these made known to the consumer at the time of purchase or service can be dealt with under the powers requiring mark orders under section 10, under which specific information must be given in relation to a particular trade description.

Would not section 10 apply only to goods? You cannot mark a service, and in these circumstances section 10 would be hardly appropriate to hotel accommodation, for instance.

Section 11 would cover a service. It could be made the subject of an order. I have not got the terms of such an order with me but one has been made under the Prices Acts in relation to charges being included. The problem referred to by the Deputy in relation to VAT has been the subject of an order. There can be a prosecution. Because it has been raised, I will ask the prices inspector to report on the enforcement of the order applying to the giving of prices as including VAT on a uniform basis.

On the question of service charges, I think that can be dealt with by the use of powers contained in section 11. It could also be dealt with, possibly, under paragraph (f) of this section. It is possible that we could retain that and amend it in a precise form. As far as professional charges are concerned, there would be a lag between the initiation and the performance of a service and this does not apply only to professional services. The advertisement would not be applicable if the goods or services were sold at a later date—the relevant time is the time of the placing of the advertisement. Professional people do not have to advertise their charges anyway but if they do so in the knowledge of the standard charges in relation to particular tasks they may subsequently alter the charges upwards because of necessary extra work and in such cases it is open to them to insert a saving clause in the advertisement to let the consumer know that the charge will be subject to revision in certain stated circumstances. The taking of that simple precaution ensures that professional people will not get into the difficulties envisaged by the Deputy.

If there is an obligation in the Prices Acts to advertise prices inclusive of VAT. I take it that applies to services as well?

I have not got a copy of the order with me. I did not anticipate this point being raised but to the best of my knowledge it is of general application.

It may be but I do not think it is actually observed by all hotels.

If this is the case I have already said I will have an investigation made of the enforcement of this order.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 6, subsection (1), line 46, after "provision" to insert ", in the course or for the purposes of a trade, business or profession,".

This is to ensure that as in the case of the application of trade descriptions in the sale of goods the Bill will not apply to private non-business advertisements but only to advertisements inserted in the course of trade or business. It would be undesirable that purely private advertisements inserted by people not engaged in trade in the field to which the advertisements relate should be the subject of criminal proceedings and therefore this amendment was introduced for the sake of clarity.

This brings us back to the point we talked about last night. This Bill seems to limit the provisions of the Merchandise Marks Acts generally to things that are done in the course of trade, business or profession and the 1887 Act seems, on the face of it, to extend to sales generally. This amendment is another indication of the desire to limit the application of these Acts to a smaller category of transactions than was the case originally. The Parliamentary Secretary has said that it was his belief that the 1887 Act and subsequent Acts were intended to apply only to a transaction carried out in the course of trade. I pointed out to him last night a number of instances where it might well be desirable that things done otherwise than in the course of trade would be covered by and have the protection of this and other Acts which this is amending.

The insertion, for example, of a private advertisement in the case of somebody trying to sell his car or goods which were his own property and in respect of which he was not a trader could be misleading and have serious consequences for a purchaser or consumer who was misled by that advertisement. The Parliamentary Secretary may not be taking into account that a trader in a particular line of business who inserted a misleading advertisement or made a false trade description would be still available at his place of business for some sort of action to be taken afterwards. On the other hand, somebody who has a one-off private sale may well not be there in future and may move to some other part of the country or, indeed, to another country and the need for the protection of a consumer against misleading advertisements or false trade descriptions on the part of a non-trader is still, in my view, in spite of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, at least as great as the need for protection against permanent traders with a permanent place of business.

There will be a somewhat anomalous situation here for newspapers. They could be placed in the very difficult position of having to decide when accepting a particular advertisement whether it is being inserted in the course of trade, business or profession or whether it is a purely private or non-trading advertisement. They could be in a situation of committing an offence if the advertisement was a misleading trading advertisement but not committing an offence——

This is the newspapers? There is a saver for newspapers anyway in section 22 (4).

There is a limited saver for them in the sense that if they could not know they would not commit an offence. Perhaps they could know. Would the Parliamentary Secretary not agree that it is somewhat anomalous that a private individual who sets out to mislead is exempt from the provisions of this Act and, on the other hand, a trader who may not be attempting to mislead at all and who may have no intention to defraud could be penalised under the provisions of this Act?

In any event, a private individual who is engaged in activity that is fraudulent can be prosecuted for fraud under the long-standing legislative criminal provisions against fraud. Furthermore, if a private individual engages in the sort of activities envisaged by the Deputy the person who is the victim of his blandishments still has the possibility of taking a civil action against the private individual who sold him something on the strength of a misleading advertisement and can recover damages which will be decided by the court on the merits of the case. If this amendment were not included and this section were interpreted in the manner envisaged by Deputy O'Malley, it could put the private individual wishing to avail of a box number or some other form of advertisement in a very difficult situation. He would be subject to the same stringent restrictions as somebody publishing an advertisement in the course of business. He would be subject as an individual to powers of inspection, duties of care to avoid all due negligence in relation to any untruth in the advertisements he publishes and also to the provisions in relation to the burden of proof of the truth of the advertisement. It would impose such a burden on any private individual wishing to insert such an advertisement that he simply would not do so. It is legitimate to make a distinction between a private individual who would be publishing an advertisement once and who has not the time or expertise to make sure that everything is right and a person doing so in the course of a trade who has the opportunity to make sure that his advertisement is propertly framed.

In any event, it would be very difficult to extend the provisions of the legislation in relation to misleading and false advertisements to private advertisements because the problems of enforcement would be very great. This would represent a wasteful diversion of the limited enforcement resources if one were to spend time going after private advertisements which are onceoff jobs. It would be far better to confine the legislation to advertisements in the business or trade fields which are likely to be repeated and to give rise to continued abuse if the misleading or false practice continues.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 15, 16 and 17 are related and by agreement will be taken together.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 6, subsection (3) (a), to delete lines 52 to 55, and to substitute:

"(3) (a) Any person may, at the discretion of the High Court, be granted an order by that Court".

If the Parliamentary Secretary will allow me a moment I should inform Deputy O'Malley that if amendment No. 15 is accepted, his amendment No. 16 cannot then be moved.

It might be better to discuss them separately.

I thought I would inform the Deputy at this stage. We will take the amendments separately. Amendment No. 15 on its own.

The existing law already provides for summary application for an interim injunction by any person who is himself likely to suffer as a result of the proposed act of another person. This right to injunction exists effectively in common law. The intention of the Bill however in the matter of misleading advertisements is to provide an injunction facility to a person who, though himself not likely to be injured, fears that members of the public could suffer loss, damage or injury. The wording in lines 52 to 55 was, therefore, considered inappropriate and the revised wording is considered more appropriate to the innovation being made here. The difficulty about the existing wording was that it could be seen as restating the existing position and no more.

I want to inform Deputy O'Malley that if amendment No. 15 is accepted, his amendment No. 16 cannot be moved.

Maybe we should also discuss amendment No. 16.

We will consider amendments Nos. 15 and 16 but would the Chair leave amendment No. 17 because it comes after (b) on the next page and it would be easier to talk about it separately?

We will discuss amendments Nos. 15 and 16 together. Amendment No. 15 being agreed, amendment No. 16 cannot be moved.

I have been reading amendment No. 17 and it might be easier to discuss it, too, because the three amendments are connected.

Amendments Nos. 15, 16 and 17 will be taken together by agreement.

Amendment No. 15 changes the beginning of subsection (3) (a) and takes out the provisions about notice in order to conform with the present practice in the High Court. Amendment No. 17 overrules the present practice in the High Court or changes it because it says that notice will have to be given before an order under this subsection will be made. In the normal way notice is not given on the making of an interim injunction. The Parliamentary Secretary seems to justify amendment No. 15 on the grounds that he does not want to interfere with the existing practice but then he introduces amendment No. 17 which does interfere with it.

In so far as a person suffers damage himself, existing practice is not interfered with and there is no requirement as to notice being inserted in this situation. In these amendments we are introducing a new provision whereby a person who is not subject to the damage himself but who fears that damage may be caused to others may seek an injunction. In that situation it is desirable that there should be provision as to notice even in interim or interlocutary injunctions.

Perhaps it would be in order for me to formally move amendment No. 17 in that context. The purpose here is to avoid a situation where, for instance, a trade competitor or some person acting in a mischievous fashion might, without any damage being suffered to himself and therefore not in the process of redressing any in-justice against himself, seeks an interim injunction and thereby, without any undue cause having been produced, obtains such an interim injunction pending a full hearing of the case.

This sort of provision, without special provisions as to notice, could be the subject of abuse. Obviously, it would not be the subject of abuse if the person suffered damage himself because it would be right to redress a situation which was causing him damage but when he was only acting on behalf of other people it was necessary to introduce this further requirement as to notice.

This is one of the sections that has given rise to legitimate concern on the part of manufacturers, advertisers, trade associations and traders generally. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider the consequences of what is proposed here, even taking into account the amendments he has made. I do not think the amendments are that significant. They do not change to any great extent the potentially harmful consequences of this section. Subsection (3) gives power to stop advertising that could be allegedly potentially misleading. The first three words are "Any person may" and the position will remain the same even under amendment No. 15 in the name of the Minister. It will still be: "Any person may" at the discretion of the High Court be granted an order prohibiting the publication, or the further publication, of an advertisement the publication of which is or would be a contravention of subsection (1) of this section. That is how subsection (3) (a) will read if amendment No. 15 is accepted.

I draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the potentially serious consequences of putting a provision in our statute law to the effect that any person may apply to the High Court for such an order. At the moment the High Court will not hear an application from someone who does not have an interest of some kind in the matter about which he is seeking to litigate. I cannot go down to the High Court and apply for an order against someone in respect of something that will not affect me. That has been the rule of the law for many centuries because the courts do not want to encourage people who are vexatious or interfering and so the courts will not allow one to take an action in respect of a matter that does not affect one or potentially damage one.

There was a very interesting example in Britain of this recently in the very famous case related to the Post Office strike. An individual sought to obtain an order from the High Court in London prohibiting the strike on the grounds that it was a breach of the law—I think common consent agreed that it was—because it is necessary in Britain, as it is necessary here, where an individual is trying to take an action that does not relate to him personally in any specific way to get the consent of the Attorney General in Britain. Mr. Silkin refused his consent for reasons with which one might well disagree and in a very historic judgment three judges of the Court of Appeal upheld the right of the individual. There is now tremendous controversy as to whether an individual should have that right without the fiat or consent of the Attorney General. The decision has been appealed to the House of Lords and there is a 50/50 chance that the House of Lords will overrule the Court of Appeal thereby restoring the position to what it was originally.

The reason why there is a good deal of interest on one side is that this is opening the way for all kinds of cranky individuals to take vexatious actions in their own names in regard to matters that really do not affect them at all. Here the exact opposite concept is being introduced into our law. I see no objection to subsection (3) (a) in its original form or in its amended form provided it is not the right of every crank to come along to the High Court and start looking for these orders. To get over that difficulty my amendment No. 16 has been tabled. Under that a person can take action only if he gets the consent in writing of the Director of Consumer Affairs. Naturally, being a responsible person, he will give his consent only where he knows the individual concerned has some valid ground for going to the High Court. The order should not be available to every member of the public by and large. This would prevent frivolous and vexatious applications.

There is, too, great danger of damage being deliberately done by competitors or nominees of competitors, men of straw being put up on the quiet to interfere with an advertising campaign in regard to some new product which, if the campaign were successful, would seriously damage some existing manufacturer. The Parliamentary Secretary must realise it is not in the public interest to give every individual in the country the right to go to the High Court seeking orders of this kind. Even if the order were not granted the very fact that the application had been made, with allegations in court about the advertising possibly forcing the defendant to undertake withholding the advertising until the court could look into it further could, even if the applicant ultimately loses the case, cause immeasurable damage to the advertiser who might be perfectly legitimate. There is provision in subsection (b) that the court may require the person to give certain security but, unfortunately, the sort of people who make applications like this are very often those who could not give any security. If an individual believes he will be damaged and can show that he will be damaged by the advertising then, by all means, let him apply. That is his right and has been for centuries.

Unfortunately, what is proposed by the Parliamentary Secretary goes far beyond the common law concept of allowing someone who is injured or can be injured the right to apply for an injunction to the High Court. The provision suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary, however, could be used by unscrupulous manufacturers and suppliers to cause difficulty and loss to a competitor. The words used are "Any person may" and that person could be a man of straw with no interest whatever. The way I have suggested out of the difficulty is to leave the right but make it a restricted right. Allow it to be exercised only if the Director of Consumer Affairs agrees it should be exercised. He will be in touch with the situation. He will know whether or not there are reasonable grounds for going to the High Court to get the advertising stopped. Tremendous damage could be done and this subsection will be used by all kinds of unscrupulous people for all the wrong reasons if it is let stand as the Minister originally had it or if it is amended. The easiest way to get over it is to accept the substance of my amendment No. 16, to allow those types of applications to be made to stop advertising only with the consent in writing of the Director of Consumer Affairs.

I am told by the Chair that my amendment No. 16 will be out of order if I agree to amendment No. 15. I suggest that is only very technically so because amendment No. 16 proposes to insert certain words after "Any person may". Those words are retained in amendment No. 15 so that amendment No. 16 could come in even if amendment No. 15 is accepted. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to agree to that in order to prevent abuse of the provisions of subsection (3) which in my view are too wide and which will give rise to harmful, vexatious and frivolous litigation which can have very serious consequences for manufacturers and advertisers.

The right of the individual to have access to the courts in this sort of situation, particularly officers of a consumer association, should be safeguarded. There are dangers in accepting Deputy O'Malley's amendment which would leave the right of access of the consumer association purely at the arbitrary decision of the Director of Consumer Affairs who is only an individual and a public official who may have one concept of what is false or misleading which may not coincide in all particulars with what either the individual, the consumer organisation or, in the final analysis, the courts might decide. There is a danger that he would refuse to allow an application to go ahead within the terms of Deputy O'Malley's amendment in an unreasonable fashion which would prevent this section having the effect it is intended to have.

It is important to remember that an injunction of this sort would only be granted if the advertisement is false or misleading—that is the first requirement—and which is likely to cause loss, damage or injury to members of the public in a material degree. All of those considerations have to be established before the order is granted. I believe there are grave dangers in saying that the director alone may decide who shall have access to the High Court, which, after all, is a judicial body which is set up to act in a fair manner to take into account both the needs of the consumer and of traders in order to stop a practice which is false or misleading and thereby likely to cause loss, damage or injury to members of the public to a material degree.

This interposition in Deputy O'Malley's amendment of an administrative officer, who, ultimately, is responsible to the Oireachtas and to the majority in the community, between the right of the individual, who may be in a minority, to get access to the courts under the law, within the terms of this section, is not a desirable situation. The provision in the section requires that in all cases notice must be given before any action is taken by the courts, including applications for interlocutory injunctions, to the person against whom the injunction is sought so that he can produce evidence to the courts to show that his advertisement is not false or misleading before any decision is taken. That protection plus the power which the court has to require the lodgment of money in the court by the person seeking the injunction provides very adequate protection. One can be sufficiently confident in the sense of justice of the judges of the High Court to be sure that they will not allow vexatious applications to proceed without imposing the requirement in relation to giving such security, including the lodgment of money in court for such amount as the judge thinks proper in relation to the undertaking and, having done so, any vexatious application will be sufficiently discouraged.

It should also be borne in mind that even if the damage is done there is an action against the person applying for malicious prosecution or for tort of that sort resting with the person affected. There would be grave disadvantages, taking all of those safeguards together, in ensuring that only applicants, who have been cleared in advance by the Director of Consumer Affairs, should have access to the High Court in the exercise of the power to seek an injunction being conferred under this section.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise that this concept of allowing anybody to object was contained in the Planning Act, 1963? Any person could object to a planning application and any person could appeal against a decision of a planning authority. It was found, in practice, that that was too wide a power and the Oireachtas decided last year to limit that right of appeal and that right of objection to people who had an interest and who could in some small way be affected by a decision of a planning authority or the decision on appeal.

There were other provisions made, such as the necessity to make a deposit when one was appealing, to stop the vexatious and frivolous appeals which were taken under the old Planning Act because it was too wide and because it was expressed in terms similar to those in subsection (3) of this section. After gaining that experience in planning and the Oireachtas having rectified it in relation to planning, the Parliamentary Secretary is now asking us to go back to the old 1963 system which we know was wrong, was abused and was used by cranks to cause damage and loss. This subsection will be used by cranks to cause damage and loss except that in this case it will be used principally by competitors to damage their opponents in business. That is wrong.

I cannot accept what the Parliamentary Secretary says about the Director of Consumer Affairs having the decision. He only has the decision as to whether or not the advertisement should be stopped. That is not what I am suggesting. I am saying the application should not be made to the High Court or should not be allowed to the High Court unless the director certifies in writing that there are some grounds for it. He is not deciding whether it is misleading or not or he is not making any final decision. He is just certifying, in the same way as the Attorney General does in relation to the whole spectrum of actions and applications, that there are some grounds for it and that it is not wholly frivolous or vexatious. The Attorney General has to do that every day of the week in relation to a large number of things.

I gave a recent example of how this matter became very controversial in Britain in regard to Mr. Silkin's refusal to give a certificate to the people who applied for an injunction in relation to the proposed Post Office strike. Mr. Silkin took the political view— which he was entitled to take because he is a member of the British Government and an elected member of Parliament—that it was in the public interest that the High Court in London should not be given the opportunity to make injunctions in a trade dispute matter of that kind. He said he was prepared to answer to the House of Commons and to the people for it but he was not prepared to answer to the courts for his decision because the decision was a political one.

We are now putting ourselves in a very tricky area here, and I think we are wrong. We have learned by experience of the Planning Act since 1964, when it came into effect, that it is wrong to give cranks and competitors the unfettered right to hold up a legitimate development, and if it is wrong in planning it is wrong here.

This is not a situation of legitimate development. We are talking here of an advertisement which is false or misleading and liable to cause damage or injury to members of the public. There is a radical difference between holding up a legitimate development in the planning field and satisfying the court, having given notice to the producing party, that the advertisement is false or misleading and likely to cause damage. The burden of proof, before any injunction would be granted, is far more severe than the burden imposed on a third party objector in the former situation in relation to planning where all he had to do was write in and object, no more, and the whole procedure would be delayed.

The Parliamentary Secretary may not be familiar with the court's work. The Parliamentary Secretary rather innocently says that this power only applies to advertisements which are false or misleading to a material degree. I know, but that does not stop me making an application in the morning in respect of an advertisement that I know very well is not false or misleading but is part of a campaign by a competitor of mine to launch a new product on the market which I know will damage my sales if it goes through. Therefore, I go down to the High Court and send in my counsel to make an application under subsection (3) of this section, and before the court decides whether to give the injunction or not, it has to decide whether the advertisement is false or misleading to a material degree.

It may take the court a month to find that out. All kinds of experts may have to be called from Britain, America, Germany and France to give evidence on this. An affidavit is put in by one person saying this proposed advertisement is likely to be false or misleading. Because the notice is given, the firm against whom the application is made put in an affidavit saying that, in their view, it is not false or misleading. The controversy may be about matters of tremendous technicality that the judge may not know the first thing about. He is not in a position from his own limited knowledge of these things to say A is right or B is right, and he says: "I will have to get expert independent evidence to assist me in coming to a decision." It transpires that Professor So-and-So in Los Angeles is the leading expert on this. He is sent for and comes a month later. In the meantime, the normal practice would be that the court would say: "Pending our decision on this, it would be advisable that these advertisements were not published."

Even if the proposed advertiser wins this matter in the end and if the injunction is refused, it may be that the delay of a week, a month or two months will have destroyed entirely his effort to launch a new product and that the frivolous or vexatious efforts of his competitors, not acting in their own name but acting through some non-entity, some man of straw, as their private nominee, will have had the most appallingly damaging effect on a perfectly legitimate effort to launch a new product and to advertise it nationally. I do not think we should be in that situation, and the way of getting round it is that the Director of Consumer Affairs, while he may not agree with the application being made, should be asked to certify that at least he is satisfied that it is not vexatious or frivolous, that the person concerned has some interest in it and that he has some grounds to go on, even though they may not be enough to secure the injunction.

Earlier in replying to Deputy O'Malley, the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned the consumer association as one body that might be precluded from having the right to appeal to the court. They would, to my mind, have a quasi-interest in it. Are there any other bodies or people that the Parliamentary Secretary can think of who might be excluded by the terms of Deputy O'Malley's amendment?

Associations as such could not apply anyway, but what would happen——

Supposing the consumers association are a limited company with a legal entity, have they not the right to apply as any others?

An association as such which was not incorporated and did not have a legal personality could not apply. To turn to the points made by Deputy O'Malley, no injunction at all would be granted in the course of the proceedings mentioned.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.
Business suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.