Daft.ie banned by watchdog from running 'professionals only' adverts
The country's largest property website Daft.ie has been ordered to block discriminatory advertising using terms like "professionals only" or "rent allowance not accepted".
It comes after a three-year legal battle between Daft Media Ltd and the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHREC) which took the case.
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) said Daft Media Ltd must "refrain from publishing, displaying or permitting to be published or displayed on its website" discriminatory adverts.
It has also been told to develop methodology to identify, monitor and block discriminatory ads on its website based on a list of terms of trigger words and phrases provided by the IHREC.
The WRC has made the ruling after finding some adverts on Daft.ie breached the Equal Status Act on the grounds of family, age and the rent allowance ground.
And it rejected Daft.ie's contention it was a "mere conduit" for online content and EU law provisions rendered Daft Media Limited immune from the commission's complaint.
At any one time, Daft.ie lists approximately 70,000 properties for sale or to rent while 2.5 million unique users visit the site each month.
The success of the business has generated millions of euro in dividends over the years for co-founders of the business, brothers Eamonn and Brian Fallon.
In bringing the complaint, the commission undertook a review of the Daft.ie website in May 2016 and identified a number of adverts that discriminated on Housing Assistance Payment, age and family status grounds.
These adverts included terms directed towards prospective tenants, which read "rent allowance not accepted"; "suit family or professionals only"; "would suit young professionals" and "references required".
The hearing in the case was over three days in March and October of last year and January 11 this year.
In a submission to the WRC, Daft Media Ltd asserted it is not an advertiser or a publisher but an Information Society Service Provider as defined in the EU e-commerce directive and that it is not responsible for the content of the material which appears on its website.
Daft Media Ltd argued the IHREC claim refers to three specific adverts and that any finding made can only be made in respect of these adverts and cannot be extended to include all discriminatory grounds.
It stated that already any adverts uploaded to the site that contain terms that have been previously reported as discriminatory are diverted to a queue of pending adverts for review.
However, as part of her lengthy ruling, WRC adjudication officer Orla Jones found Daft Media Ltd "has a vicarious liability for advertisements placed on its website by third parties where these constitute a breach of the Equal Status Act".
Commission member Tony Geoghegan, who has been a long-standing advocate for homeless people in Ireland, welcomed the ruling.
He said: "In the context of the current crises in homelessness and housing, this ruling marks a significant step in efforts to curtail discriminatory advertising particularly around rental accommodation."
Daft Media Ltd was contacted for comment on the WRC ruling.