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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 16 Dec 1980

Vol. 325 No. 7

Supplementary Estimates, 1980. - Casual Trading Bill, 1980: Report and Final Stages.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 4, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:—

"(b) An applicant for a casual trading licence shall be required to obtain a bond of not less than £5,000 from a licensed assurance company, for the protection of consumers purchasing goods or property to which the licence relates.".

I recommend that this amendment should be inserted between lines 33 and 34 of the Bill. The Minister is aware that there are many people involved in the commercial and business life of the country who deal with transactions involving large sums of money and who are required to obtain a bond from an insurance company or some other body or have some form of indemnity. One that comes to mind offhand is an auctioneering bond.

The Minister will recollect that my reasons for requiring this amendment were that a situation could arise where, in the course of a day, a casual trader could sell ten colour televisions each costing £400. That would be a business transaction of £4,000. It could happen that the television sets would be duds, completely useless and utterly unsuited for the purpose for which they were originally intended. Alternatively, it could happen that the person who sold them was not the owner but had acquired them in some way or other. I am just taking the example of colour televisions but other types of goods of equal value could also be sold.

A person who purchased one of the television sets and sought redress from the trader could find that the trader had no means whatever. He would be left with a completely useless television which could not be repaired and he would have parted with his money and have no redress. Such a person has no remedy whatever. Unless there is a safeguard inserted in the Bill it provides a loophole for those who wish to be unscrupulous.

The Minister will probably say that this would be an infringement of the rights of casual traders because shopkeepers do not have to have a similar bond and that would be an expense on the casual trader. A person who is established in business and who perhaps has a dwellinghouse or family ties with a particular town does not have to take out a bond. However, there is a great difference between the two cases. The Minister should reconsider the line of argument he put to us on Committee Stage.

A casual trader has to have a licence but it is of little comfort to a person who has parted with £400 and has no redress to know that the trader will be refused a licence the following year. The cost of the bond is an expense but a reputable casual trader who has means and is able to satisfy an insurance company or similar body will have little difficulty in taking out such a bond. A bond may cost £70 or £100 but it is not a big expense. The Minister should adopt my proposal.

We have put through a lot of important legislation to protect the consumer — the housewife, working man, old age pensioner and so on — and the Minister and his Department have a responsibility to add this amendment to the Bill. It will cause little problem to the casual trader but will provide a remedy and redress for anyone who purchases goods and later finds that they are unsuitable for the purposes for which they were intended.

I am sorry to say that I am not accepting the Deputy's amendment because, as he said, a shopkeeper is not required to take out such insurance. The Department and I feel it would be very unfair to impose this requirement on casual traders. There is also the fact that it is possible that no insurance company would bond a casual trader. If it did, the cost of the insurance would be almost excessive. I cannot see any insurance company operating special rates for casual traders.

There are people who have to lodge money with the High Court. Invariably they are well known and trusted members of the community but it has always been accepted that while they have to have bonds it is more to secure against legal accidents than likely dishonesty. That is a point that has been missed as far as auctioneers and other sections are concerned. It is up to people who purchase from casual traders to ensure that they are from reputable firms.

Deputy Enright said that shopkeepers are generally well known in their areas. There might be traders who had rented stores who would vanish overnight. For those reasons I reject the amendment.

I do not think the Minister's point holds water. There will be consumers who may have bought defective or useless goods and who, without the type of bond I am suggesting, will be unable to recover compensation. If insurance companies are not prepared to guarantee consumers against dishonesty or insolvency among casual traders how will consumers obtain redress?

The Deputy has been concerning himself mainly with dishonesty. Most bonds taken out from insurance companies are not against dishonesty. The Deputy will bear auctioneers in mind. Their bonds are in regard to the taking of legal action. Once you start on this line it is difficult to see an end to it. Insurance companies, if asked to initiate a scheme against dishonesty, would find themselves having to issue bonds right across the board. Anyway, other legislation goes a considerable way to protect consumers.

The Minister, to a large extent, has been trying to twist my statement. I was not imputing dishonesty in regard to auctioneers. I should like to make that clear. The point of my amendment is to protect aggrieved consumers.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos.4 and 6 may be taken with amendment No. 2.

I move amendment No.2:

In page 4, line 41, to delete "under section 3 of this Act" and to substitute "in relation to the importation, possession or sale of goods committed while he was the holder of a casual trading licence or an offence under section 3 of this Act".

I have introduced these amendments in response to points made by Deputy Enright on Committee Stage, particularly in relation to section 14. The Deputy expressed concern in regard to the importation, possession or sale of goods and to conviction in this respect of a casual trader. Amendment No. 6 gives the Minister power to refuse the renewal of a licence or to prevent the issue of a licence to a casual trader who had been convicted of two or more offences in the previous five years.

I thank the Minister for meeting my points on these matters. This will be a way to ensure that traders convicted of offences will not be allowed to remain in business indefinitely.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 3 has been ruled out of order.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 4, line 43, after "convicted of" to insert "an offence in relation to the importation, possession or sale of goods committed while he was the holder of a casual trading licence or".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 5 has been ruled out of order.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 4, line 45, to delete "more than once of offences under this Act" and to substitute "of two or more offences (each offence being either an offence in relation to the importation, possession or sale of goods committed while the person was the holder of a casual trading licence or an offence under this Act)."

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 9 have been ruled out of order.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 6, between lines 29 and 30, to insert the following:—

"(3) A person engaging in casual trading shall display on his person an identification to the effect that he is engaged on such trade.".

This point was raised by several Deputies on this side during Committee Stage. We felt that the permits should be displayed in a place where they would be clearly visible to the consumers. The same applies to licences. This is particularly important in the case of casual trading. Large supermarkets at the moment have such a system and in regard to staff identification they have tabs with the names of staff on the clothing of the staff so that customers know whom they are dealing with. In bazaars and street trading points on the Continent it is normal for staff behind counters to have their names displayed and to have on display proper identification, issued by the local authorities so that they can be clearly identified if there is any breach of the law on their part or any complaint by the person they are dealing with. Also if people find it is necessary to make a report to the local authority or to the Department or to make a claim in court they will have had the opportunity of seeing the permit or licence displayed and will also know the individual with whom they were dealing.

The local authority will be issuing permits. But it can happen that there will be a group of traders conducting business under one permit or licence. This should be in a prominent position in the place where transactions are taking place. But the permit might be displayed in such a position that the customer cannot see it clearly and therefore will not know whom he is dealing with. It is to avoid that sort of situation that I am putting forward this amendment. What I have suggested is standard practice on the Continent and should be adopted here.

The Deputy need not worry about that. The effect of the Deputy's amendment would be that the trader would have to display on his person some sort of sign to convey that he was engaged in casual trading. I do not see any point in doing this because section 6 says that a person engaged in casual trading in a casual trading area shall display the casual trading permit relating to the trade or a copy thereof in such a position in the place where he is carrying on the trading as to be clearly visible and easily legible to members of the public at the place. That is very clear. It is obvious that many people change their address but it is the intention of the Minister to ensure as far as possible that licences will not be handed out but posted to an address. I would like if the local authorities would adopt the same policy of reaching a postal address so that we will at least know the address of the person applying for the licence and include it in the licence or permit. That should satisfy the position.

The Minister will have seen in the papers over the years that many of these people have permanent addresses but they are shared with many others. They merely have an arrangement to collect post there. That is the only business transacted at such addresses by people whose sole purpose is to make money at as rapid a pace as possible. My amendment seeks to ensure that this does not arise. I am familiar with numerous people involved in casual trading and I am friendly with many of them. The vast majority, over 90 per cent, have permanent addresses, lead normal lives and are providing a service by being involved in this type of business. They have a reputation to maintain and it is for the sake of those people that I propose this amendment. Displaying names and addresses is a safeguard that this country could adopt since it is normal practice on the Continent and it would be an addition to this Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 11 has been ruled out of order.

Bill received for final consideration and passed.