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personal injury

There are still around 11 insurance claims harvesting websites operating in Ireland - and they're 'challenging' to stop

Minister Paschal Donohoe has said he’s satisfied Ireland hasn’t become like the UK when it comes to the prevalence of claims harvesting.

THERE ARE STILL around 11 active “claims harvesting” websites operating in Ireland, according to figures given to the government by the Law Society. 

This is a fall from 60 such websites in 2016 with six removed in the last six months alone.

Claims harvesting websites are sites which are set up to present as legitimate firms but instead aggregate personal injury claims and gather a person’s personal data. This data is then passed on to third-party legal firms.

Minister Paschal Donohoe, responding to a recent parliamentary question, said that regulating these websites is a “complex matter” but he is satisfied the professional bodies are pursuing such sites “to the extent they can in light of the challenges that exist”. 

He also said he is satisfied that efforts here have succeeded in making claims harvesters here as prevalent as they are in the UK.

Donohoe said that information received from people who visit the site with an interest in making personal injury claims is then offered for sale to solicitors on an anonymous panel – undisclosed to the client – who can contact the people then directly.

In the context of the spiralling cost of insurance in recent years, he said that companies engaging in this practice had been brought up as part of the Cost of Insurance Working Group set up in 2016 to tackle the problem.

He said the Law Society told his department that it actively pursues claims harvesting websites. 

Although the number of these sites operating in Ireland have dropped from 60 in 2016 to 11, “this figure can fluctuate” according to Donohoe.

“The Law Society states that unfortunately, the process of identifying the owners of the websites is often frustrated by the sophisticated ways in which the website owners conceal their identity,” he said.

For example, it would appear that many of the websites, which are operating in Ireland, may not actually be located within the jurisdiction nor within other EU countries.  I understand that this factor increases the levels of complexity of investigations, as it can be particularly difficult to establish who the owners of the relevant websites are. 

The minister said that although it was clearly a “complex matter”, existing regulations have “helped prevent such websites to evolve to become a more prevalent feature of the Irish personal injuries environment, in the way that they are in the UK, for example”.

He added that if anyone believed a solicitor firm was using a claims harvesting website, they should report the matter to the Law Society or the Legal Services Regulatory Authority for investigation. 

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