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Mail on Sunday to pay €15,000 over 'Tribune' masthead

The Irish Mail on Sunday was also found not guilty of having intended to do so under the Consumer Protection Act.

Image: @hughieluas via Twitter

THE IRISH MAIL on Sunday newspaper was found by a court today to have deceived or misled customers by using a ‘wraparound’ featuring the name of the Sunday Tribune in an issue last February.

The paper was found not guilty of having intended to deceive or mislead under the Consumer Protection Act 2007, by Judge Conal Gibbons at Dublin District Court today.

Justice Gibbons said the IMoS had made a “serious error”, and been “overzealous and overenthusiastic” in its actions, with no proper consideration given to the Consumer Protection Act.

However, Associated Newspapers  – which owns the Irish Mail on Sunday – asked Judge Gibbons for the Probation Act to be applied. Counsel for Associated Newspapers asked that the judge take into account that ANI was a “good corporate citizen” and said it was prepared to offer €15,000 to charity nominated the court.

The court ruled that the Mail on Sunday should pay €15,000 to charities chosen by the National Union of Journalists and applied the Probation of Offenders Act. This means that a conviction will not now be recorded.

Associated Newspapers has also been ordered to meet the prosecution’s costs and the expenses of witnesses – totalling €25,000 – within four weeks.

The case had been taken by the National Consumer Agency, who alleged that the Mail on Sunday had breached the Consumer Protection Act with the four-page wraparound covering its issue of February 6 last year.

The Agency contended that the paper had broken the Act by attempting to attract readers by deliberately deceiving or misleading the consumer and by promoting its own product in a way that would deceive or mislead the consumer.

Justice Gibbons said it was “clear how a person could believe it was the Sunday Tribune” and said that the witnesses who had appeared on behalf of the NCA had set out how they thought they had been misled. However he said the paper had not done so deliberately.

The Sunday Tribune had gone into receivership a few days previously, and had not itself been published on that date. It was shut down a month later.

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The managing director of Associated Newspapers Ireland, Paul Henderson, had previously told the court that there was “no dark heart” in its wraparound, which had been intended to entice readers of the Sunday Tribune to buy the IMoS instead.

The National Consumer Agency said it had received a number of complaints about the wraparound from readers who had believed they were buying the Sunday Tribune, only to find a copy of the Irish Mail on Sunday inside the paper.

Responding to the verdict today, the chief executive of the NCA said: “This case should be a wake up call for all businesses of the importance of meeting their obligations under consumer protection law.

“Care needs to be taken by business to ensure that any promotional or marketing activity is undertaken in good faith and that consumers are not being misled.”

Additional reporting by Gavan Reilly

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Hugh O'Connell

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