Monday 16 September 2019

'Professionals only' - ordered to block discriminatory terms in ads

'Professionals only' - ordered to block discriminatory terms in ads Stock photo: PA
'Professionals only' - ordered to block discriminatory terms in ads Stock photo: PA

Gordon Deegan

The country’s largest property website, has been ordered to block discriminatory advertising using terms like “professionals only” or “rent allowance not accepted”.

It comes after a three year long legal battle between Daft Media Ltd and the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHREC) which took the case.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) said that 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 develop a methodology to identify, monitor and block discriminatory advertising on its website based on a list of terms of trigger words and phrases provided to them by the IHREC.

The WRC has made the ruling after finding that some rental adverts on breached the Equal Status Act on the grounds of family status, age and on the rent allowance ground.

And it rejected’s contention that it was a ‘mere conduit’ for online content and that EU law provisions rendered Daft Media Limited immune from the complaint by the Commission.

At any one time, 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 website in May 2016 and identified a number of adverts that discriminated on HAP, age and family status grounds of the Equal Status Acts.

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 heard 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 that it is not an advertiser or a publisher but that it is an Information Society Service Provider (ISSP) 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 that 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 that 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.

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