Human Rights and Equality Commission Uses Legal Powers in Successful Challenge of daft.ie Discriminatory Rental Adverts

Decision finds Daft Media Limited ‘vicariously liable’ for online adverts, with likely implications for other Irish platforms hosting discriminatory content

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) has won its almost three-year long legal action against Daft Media Limited’s publication online of discriminatory rental adverts on its property website daft.ie. The website reports a unique audience of over 2.5 million users each month.

The company behind one of Ireland’s largest housing advertising websites was referred to the Workplace Relations Commission (the ‘WRC’) by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in October 2016. The case was taken by the Commission in its own name using its unique powers under section 23 of the Equal Status Acts.

In bringing the complaint, the Commission undertook a review of the daft.ie website in 2016 and identified a number of adverts that discriminated on the housing (‘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 WRC’s decision, published today, rejected Daft Media Limited’s arguments that it was a ‘mere conduit’ for online content under EU law and rejected the claim that such EU law provisions rendered Daft Media Limited immune from this complaint by the Commission.

Daft Media Ltd. has now been ordered by the WRC firstly to “refrain from publishing or, displaying or permitting to be published or displayed on its website” discriminatory adverts, and secondly to “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 previously to them by the Commission and to be kept updated.

In a decision that should also be noted by other Irish-based websites hosting potentially discriminatory third-party content, the WRC Adjudication Officer stated in the final adjudication: “I am satisfied that…the respondent [Daft Media Limited] has a vicarious liability for advertisements placed on its website by third parties where these constitute a breach of the Equal Status [A]ct.”

This is the first case where a decision by the Commission to commence proceedings in its own name has resulted in a decision of the WRC.

Commission member Tony Geoghegan, who has been a long-standing advocate for homeless people in Ireland, welcomed the ruling:

 “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.

“The Commission is seeing systemic discrimination against people in receipt of housing social welfare payments, against people with families, against those seeking employment and against young and old people. Advertisements for accommodation should describe the property available, not people.

“Today’s outcome cuts off advertising options for people who would seek to discriminate when advertising rental accommodation.”

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, also noted the wider impacts of today’s ruling:

“This  decision also sends out  an important signal that online platforms cannot hold the legal line that they are mere conduits when it comes to hosting discriminatory material. Today’s ruling makes clear that there is a responsibility attached to hosting such advertising by website owners.”

ENDS/

 

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Visit our website www.ihrec.ie or follow us on twitter @_IHREC

 

Notes to Editor

The full decision of the Adjudication Officer in this case is available at the following link:

https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/cases/2019/august/adj-00005960.html

 

Relevant sections of the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015

Section 23 of the Equal Status Acts provides that the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission enjoys a power to refer a complaint of discriminatory advertising to the Director of the Workplace Relations Commission.

Section 12 of the Equal Status Acts prohibits discriminatory advertising.

 

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures. The Commission is also Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations.

 

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