Thursday, 20 June 2019

Ceisteanna (110, 111, 128, 129, 130)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

110. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 61 of 13 June 2019, the number of instances in each year since 2011 in which the Legal Services Regulatory Authority found cases in which claims harvesters were in breach of the legislation and regulations in advertising for personal injury claims by online and offline breaches; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26037/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

111. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 61 of 13 June 2019, the number of instances in each year since 2011 in which an organisation (details supplied) found cases in which claims harvesters were in breach of the legislation and regulations in advertising for personal injury claims by online and offline breaches; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26038/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

128. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of instances in each year since 2011 in which the Legal Services Regulatory Authority found cases in which claims harvesters were in breach of the legislation and regulations in advertising for personal injury claims by online and offline breaches; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26034/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

129. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of instances in each year since 2011 in which an organisation (details supplied) found cases in which claims harvesters were in breach of the legislation and regulations in advertising for personal injury claims by online and offline breaches; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26035/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

130. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons in each year since 2011who have been prosecuted for advertising personal injury claims in contravention of the legislative and regulatory prohibitions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26036/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 110, 111 and 128 to 130, inclusive, together.

Further to the relevant Written Replies made by myself and the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe TD, on 13 July 2019, I have sought additional information on those regulatory breaches involving insurance 'claims harvesters' as sought under today's Questions by Deputy McGrath. In response the Law Society has provided statistics to my Department in respect of the years 2014 to 2018 and to date for 2019 as set out in the table below.

In 2014 responsibility for the regulation of solicitors' advertising transferred from the Complaints and Client Relations Committee of the Law Society to its Regulation of Practice Committee. At that time, the Society also employed a dedicated advertising regulations executive to pro-actively enforce the regulation of this area. Accordingly, the Law Society has been able to provide statistics relating to its enforcement, of primary legislation and the Solicitors (Advertising) Regulations 2002, from 2014. As can be seen from the figures provided, in all, some 28 websites owned by solicitors or other operators have now been removed or have become inoperable. This, I understand, includes some removed since the end of last year and two websites that are dormant following liquidation of the company concerned. It should also be noted, as set out in the table, that a further 15 solicitor-owned websites have been brought into regulatory compliance by the Law Society in this regard.

Websites

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019 (to date)

Current Total

Solicitor owned and removed

3

2

3

3

1

0

12

Non-solicitor owned and removed

0

3

4

4

3

2

16

Solicitor owned and brought into compliance

1

2

0

3

5

4

15

As I have set out in my Written Reply to Question No. 114 of 13 June 2019, the current regulatory approach to advertising by solicitors will be replaced under section 218 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. Under that section, such advertising will no longer be regulated by the legal professional bodies as happens at present but by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority. This new regime, which will apply to both solicitors and barristers, will come into effect early next year including in terms of the provision of any relevant statistical data. The Authority will be carrying out its required public consultations later this year in preparation for the introduction of the new legal services advertising regulations in Q1 of 2020 supported, of course, by my commencement of the relevant provisions of the 2015 Act.

It is important to note that both the Law Society and the Legal Services Regulatory Authority are responsible, under the respective legislative provisions concerned, solely for the regulation of legal practitioners including the advertising of their services. As I have conveyed in my Written Reply of 13 June 2019 and as has been discussed by the Cost of insurance Working Group, the specific regulation of 'claims harvesters', who use notoriously evasive tactics while operating on-line both nationally and internationally, is a complex challenge which remains for possible resolution as part of the wider regulation of the insurance sector.