The proceedings of Oireachtas committees will be conducted without the requirement for social distancing and with normal capacity in the committee rooms restored. However, committees are encouraged to take a gradual approach to this change. Members and witnesses have the option to attend meetings in the relevant committee room or online through Microsoft Teams. Those attending the committee rooms and its environs should continue to sanitise and wash their hands properly, be respectful of other people's physical space where possible, and practise good respiratory etiquette. If those attending the meeting have any Covid-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, they should not attend in the committee room. Members and all in attendance are asked to exercise personal responsibility in protecting themselves and others from the risk of contracting Covid-19. Members who are required to participate in the meeting remotely must do so from within the Leinster House complex, as they are well aware.
Apologies have been received from Senator Garvey and Deputy Shanahan.
Today's meeting is to discuss the general scheme of the representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers Bill 2022. This Bill aims to give effect to the EU representative actions directive by creating a new civil litigation mechanism by which a qualified entity may act as a claimant party on behalf of consumers who have opted into a representative action against a trader in the High Court. The Bill also creates a mechanism whereby an organisation which represents the collective interests of consumers may apply to the Minister to be designated as a qualified entity to bring a representative action in Ireland or in other EU member states.
The new law is a response to recent mass consumer rights breaches by private companies.
It will allow for several cross-border qualified entities to come together to represent EU consumers where they have been harmed by the same alleged infringement which has been caused by the same trader in several member states. Today we are pleased to have the opportunity to consider these matters further with representatives of various bodies. I welcome Mr. Philip Andrews from the Law Society of Ireland, who is a partner in McCann Fitzgerald with responsibility for EU, anti-trust and telecoms. He is a member of the Law Society's business law committee. I understand that Ms Aleksandra Pruska of McCann Fitzgerald may also be joining us. I also welcome the chairperson of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, CCPC, Mr Jeremy Godfrey. He is joined by Mr. Kevin O'Brien, who is a member of the CCPC; Ms Síona Ryan, who is the CCPC's director of policy and international; and Mr. Robert Dunne, who is the CCPC's deputy director of legal services. I also welcome the chairperson of the Consumer Association of Ireland, CAI, Mr. Michael Kilcoyne, who is attending remotely. He is joined by Mr. Raymond O'Rourke, who is the vice chairperson of the CAI; and Mr. Dermott Jewell, who is the CAI's policy and council adviser.
Before we begin, I wish to explain some limitations to parliamentary privilege and the practices of the Houses as regards references that witnesses make to another person in their evidence. The evidence of witnesses who are physically present or who give evidence from within the parliamentary precincts is protected pursuant to both the Constitution and statute by absolute privilege. Witnesses are again reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable, or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. Therefore, if their statements are potentially defamatory to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that they comply with any such direction.
The opening statements from the three organisations have been circulated to members. To commence consideration of the matter today, I invite Mr. Philip Andrews to make his opening statement on behalf of the Law Society.