Readers duped to buy fake 'Tribune', court told
THE 'Irish Mail on Sunday' has denied it tried to deceive readers into buying its newspaper by publishing a special edition with a fake 'Sunday Tribune' masthead.
Associated Newspapers Ireland, owners of the 'Irish Mail on Sunday', is being prosecuted by the National Consumer Agency (NCA) for breaching the Consumer Protection Act.
The watchdog brought the case after complaints by readers who bought the special edition on February 6 last thinking they had purchased the 'Sunday Tribune' -- days after it went into receivership.
A receiver was appointed to the loss-making 'Tribune' on February 1 and two days later a decision was made not to bring out a final edition on February 6.
The 'Irish Mail on Sunday' then distributed about 26,000 special editions to shops on the east coast. They featured a "wraparound" cover with a heading saying "a special edition designed for readers of the 'Sunday Tribune'".
The special edition also had vouchers on the back page offering the 'Irish Mail on Sunday' at a reduced price for the next four weeks.
In evidence, Noirin Hegarty, the 'Tribune' editor for six years prior to its closure, told the Dublin District Civil Court that on Sunday February 6 last she learned there was a paper purporting to be the 'Sunday Tribune'.
She told Jonathan Kilfeather, for the NCA, that the masthead and colours were the same as those of the 'Tribune' and similar fonts were used.
"It was not the 'Sunday Tribune' but it looked like it," she said. She later issued a statement expressing her outrage at the edition printed by the 'Irish Mail on Sunday'.
Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), gave evidence and said he bought the edition thinking it was the 'Sunday Tribune'.
He agreed with Neil Steen, for Associated Newspapers Ireland, that the 'Tribune' closure and the announcement that there would be no further editions for at least four weeks had been well publicised.
However, he added that the 'Tribune' management had not consulted the NUJ about the closure "so it was entirely possible that they could have brought out an edition".
He described the 'Irish Mail on Sunday' edition as "crass" and an example of "sharp practice". The union chief regarded it as "dancing on the graves of my members facing redundancies".
Five consumers gave evidence telling the court that they had each bought the special editions thinking they were buying the 'Tribune'.
Witness Pierce Farrell told the court he felt "duped" when he brought one of them home and discovered it was really the 'Irish Mail on Sunday'.
Paul Henderson, managing director of Associated Newspapers Ireland, described the wraparound cover as a "marketing stunt" to attract 'Tribune' readers and he denied that there was any intention to deceive them.
He also said the wraparound cover's price was different to that of the 'Tribune', and it listed features and columns carried in the 'Irish Mail on Sunday' only.
The case continues today.