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Vehicle supplier secures order to have Facebook group it claims is damaging its business reputation taken down

The injunction was granted in favour Harris Auto Trading Company.

Image: Graham Hughes/Photocall Ireland!

A MOTOR VEHICLE supplier has secured a temporary High Court directing a former customer to take down a Facebook group which it claims is damaging it business reputation.

The injunction was granted in favour Harris Auto Trading Company, which has sued Glenferry Coaches Ltd, trading as Kearneys of Cork and its principle Mr Roy Kearney, with addresses at Waterfront Business Park, Little Island Cork

Harris Auto claims that out of a dispute over its sale and supply earlier this year of a 41-seater bus, for €225,000, to the defendants have engaged in “a campaign of commercial intimidation” against it.

In its action Harris Auto claims that Kearney has made false statements about it on a Facebook group entitled ‘Nightmare Coach Stories’.

The defendants have also interfered with Harris Auto’s business relationships with third-parties and have made unlawful demands in the nature of blackmail and extortion, it is claimed.

The defendants, represented in court by Daniel Fennelly Bl, deny the claims and had opposed the injunction application.

The injunction was granted by Mr Justice Alexander Owens at Tuesday’s sitting of the High Court.

The judge said he was making an order requiring the defendants to take down Facebook group.

The defendants activity on Facebook “has to stop”, the judge said adding that the social media group was not about “coach nightmares”, but was about “a specific product”.

Based on the evidence before the court the judge said that the balance of convenience favoured the granting of the injunction.

The judge also ordered the defendants not to proactively contact anyone else in the coaching business concerning the quality of Hieger coaches.

The injunction, the Judge added, is to remain in place until the application to have the injunction put in place until the matter is finally resolved.

The case will return before the Court next week.

Adjournment sought

Gary McCarthy SC for Harris Auto, of Naas Road Dublin, said his client wanted the group removed from Facebook, pending the outcome of the full hearing of the dispute.

Harris Auto was not prepared to accept an offer of a suspension of the group, which has 766 members, counsel added.

Fennelly, who sought an adjournment so his side could file a sworn statement in response to the allegations, said that it is the defendant’s case that the bus supplied had defective steering.

His client also had concerns about freedom of expression if the injunction was granted, counsel added.

Previously the High Court heard that the dispute arose following a High Court action concerning the Higer coach.

It was alleged the coach was not handed back to Harris Auto after the contract for sale and supply was rescinded and the money repaid to the defendants.

The defendants agreed to return the bus, and the dispute was remitted to the circuit court. Since the making of that order, Harris Auto claims the defendants have engaged in a campaign against it.

It claims Kearney is the administrator of the Facebook group, which contained a picture of one of Harris’s senior employees with the caption “not all cowboys wear hats”.

The defendants also staged a photograph to make it look like the bus supplied by Harris was not roadworthy, it was claimed. Independent inspections of the vehicle have found it to be roadworthy, Harris Auto claims.

Harris Auto further claims it has been informed that the defendants have contacted other coach operator customers in an attempt to stop them doing business with them.

Counsel said that Harris has also received several anonymous phones calls telling the company to “pay Roy what you owe him” and to put “€60,000 of cleared funds in Roy Kearney’s solicitors account and then all the Facebook trouble will go away”.

As a result of the alleged action Harris Auto seeks various orders including the injunctions against the defendants, which deny any wrongdoing.

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Aodhan O Faolain

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