Daft.ie appeals finding of discrimination in property ads

WRC found postings such as ‘rent allowance not’ breached the Equal Status Acts

The case was seen as significant as Daft had relied on an argument that it was an information society service provider and acted as a “mere conduit” for the ads. Photograph: iStock

The case was seen as significant as Daft had relied on an argument that it was an information society service provider and acted as a “mere conduit” for the ads. Photograph: iStock

 

Property website Daft.ie has initiated an appeal against a finding by the Workplace Relations Commmission (WRC) that ads it hosted breached anti-discrimination laws, The Irish Times has learned.

The case taken by the company, which had 42 days to appeal the ruling, has been listed for mention in the circuit court next month.

The finding by the WRC, which was published last month, followed a complaint made by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC). The IHREC rather than the WRC is the defendant in the action, as it took the original case against the property website.

The ads in question included terms such as “rent allowance not accepted”, “suit family or professionals only”, and “would suit young professionals”. The WRC found that the postings breached sections of the equal status acts in that they discriminated on the basis of age, employment status and against those in receipt of housing assistance.

The case was seen as significant as Daft had relied on an argument that it was an information society service provider and acted as a “mere conduit” for the ads, and therefore could not be held responsible for the ads. The website, which was founded by brothers Brian and Eamon Fallon in 2001, also pointed to a series of policy changes it had introduced since the original complaint was made which sought to tighten up on ads which used potentially discriminatory language.

However, the WRC found that Daft had “vicarious liability” for the content posted on its site. It ruled that the website must refrain from publishing or displaying, or permitting publishing or displaying, anything that “indicates an intention to engage in prohibited conduct”. It also found that Daft must “develop a methodology to identify, monitor and block discriminatory advertising on its website”. The system is to be based on a list of words and phrases suggested by the IHERC.

Spokespeople for the IHREC and the WRC declined to comment on the appeal. Daft did not return a request for comment.

After the ruling, experts said the finding would be watched closely by tech giants, especially the fact that European e-commerce directives offered no protection to Daft in the final ruling by the WRC. In its finding, the WRC said “there is no evidence within the arguments raised to satisfy me that the Ecommerce directive shields or protects the respondent from its obligations under the Equal Status Acts”.