State hit with €2.5m penalty for failure to implement new online safety rules

State has also been ordered to pay a daily penalty of €10,000 until the matter is rectified

Ireland must pay a lump sum of €2.5 million over its failure to bring in new online safety rules on time, a European court has ruled.

The Court of Justice of the European Union imposed the penalty after Ireland failed to meet its obligations to implement new rules on protecting children from harmful content on video-sharing platforms, missing a September 2020 deadline set by the directive from the European Commission.

The State has also been ordered to pay a daily penalty of €10,000 until the matter is rectified and the regulation implemented. It must pay its own costs and that of the commission.

However, the figure was below the maximum fine that could have been imposed.


The court ruling noted there had been several communications between the commission and Irish authorities on the directive.

In a statement, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media said it accepted the judgment, but noted there were delays in the process due to the need to establish a new regulator to oversee the implementation of the audiovisual media services directive (AVMSD).

“Under the AVMSD, Ireland has responsibility for regulating video-sharing platforms and streaming services that are established here for the whole of Europe,” the department said. “It was therefore necessary not only to enshrine the AVMSD in Irish law, but to establish a new regulator to oversee its implementation. This contributed to delays in the transposition process.”

The State is currently working on Ireland’s first online safety code, which will require social media and video-sharing platforms to protect children from harmful content or face the prospect of fines of up to €20 million.

That code, which is intended to be finalised by autumn, will come under the control of Coimisiún na Meán, Ireland’s new body for regulating broadcasters, on-demand services and online media.

The State had argued most of the provisions of the directive were transposed with the introduction of the Online Safety Act in March last year, but the ruling said Ireland conceded that “it has not transposed that directive in its entirety or communicated all the relevant transposition measures, but asserts that its transposition into Irish law is at a very advanced stage”.

The court found the legislation could not be regarded as constituting a specific measure transposing the directive.

“Ireland is completely committed to implementing the directive into Irish law. Full transposition will be achieved once Coimisiún na Meán adopts online safety and media services codes,” the department said.

“It is important for Ireland that the codes which Coimisiún na Meán puts in place are comprehensive and robust, and that all due processes are followed to minimise risk of legal challenge. When completed, these codes will make the online world safer and provide stronger regulation and oversight of streaming services established in Ireland.”

Sign up for Business push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist