If I am adversely affected by a breach of European Community law, how can I obtain redress at national level?
As Member States are responsible for applying Community law, the first thing to do if you, as a citizen or business, encounter a problem in exercising your Community law rights is to pursue the matter with the relevant national authorities and explore all available means of redress through internal procedures. Many problems can be solved quickly at the level of local, regional or national authorities with immediate effect on individual circumstances.
What options do I have if I cannot obtain the information I require from the national authorities?
In Ireland, there are a number of non-judicial procedures available to allow access to information and resolve disputes between the public and the administration.
Give examples of some of the non-judicial procedures referred to.
Examples include but are not limited to the following:
The Office of the Ombudsman
This office investigates complaints from members of the public who feel that they have been unfairly treated by government departments, local authorities, health boards and certain other public bodies.
Further details on the Office of the Ombudsman may be located at www.irlgov.ie/ombudsman/
The Office of the Information Commissioner
This office provides an independent avenue of appeal for members of the public who are not happy with decisions by public bodies in relation to requests under the Freedom of Information Act 1997.
The Freedom of Information Act 1997 establishes the following legal rights for members of the public:
Access official records held by government departments or other public bodies subject to the Act;
To have personal information held on them amended;
To be given reasons for decisions that particularly affect them.
Further details on the Office of the Information Commissioner may be located at http://www.oic.gov.ie/en/
The Equality Authority
If the matter is one of alleged discrimination on the grounds of gender, marital status, family status, age, disability, race, religious belief, membership of the traveller community or sexual orientation, you may consider contacting the Equality Authority.
Further details on the Equality Authority may be located at www.equality.ie
The Competition Authority
If the matter is one of an alleged breach of European Union or national competition law, you may consider contacting the Competition Authority.
Further details on the Competition Authority may be located at www.tca.ie
The Data Protection Commissioner
If the matter is one of an alleged breach of your data protection rights, you may consider contacting the Data Protection Commissioner.
Further details on the Data Protection Commissioner may be located at www.dataprotection.ie.
Financial Services Ombudsman
If the matter is one of an alleged breach of European Union or national law in the insurance, banking, credit union or financial services sector, you may consider contacting the Financial Services Ombudsman.
Further details on the Financial Services Ombudsman may be located at www.financialombudsman.ie.
Financial Services Regulatory Authority
If the matter is one of an alleged breach of European Community law by a financial services firm e.g. bank, you may consider contacting the Financial Regulator.
Further details on the Financial Services Regulatory Authority may be obtained from the Financial Regulator, P.O. Box 9138, College Green, Dublin 2. The telephone number is 01 410 4000. The website address is www.ifsra.ie
Office of the Director of Telecommunications Regulation
If the matter is one of an alleged breach of European Community law in the telecommunications, radio communications, broadcasting or postal services sectors, you may consider contacting Comreg.
Further details on Comreg may be located at www.comreg.ie.
Commission for Aviation Regulation
If the matter is one of an alleged breach of European Community law in the aviation sector, you may consider contacting the Commission for Aviation Regulation.
Further details on the Commission for Aviation Regulation may be located at www.aviationreg.ie
Commission for Energy Regulation
If the matter is one of an alleged breach of European Community law in the energy sector, you may consider contacting the Commission for Energy Regulation.
Further details on energy regulation may be located at www.cer.ie.
If the matter is one of an alleged breach of European Community consumer law e.g. misleading advertising or unfair contract terms or a dispute in connection with purchasing goods, obtaining a loan or taking out an insurance policy, assistance may be obtained from a number of sources.
If you have an unresolved dispute with a trader, you can seek assistance from the following:
the National Consumer Agency which aims to defend consumer interests and to embed a robust consumer culture in Ireland. Further information on the National Consumer Agency may be obtained at www.consumerconnect.ie;
the Consumers' Association of Ireland which aims to maintain and improve the standard of goods and services rendered to the public and to promote and advance knowledge of consumer matters in Ireland. Further information on the Consumers' Association of Ireland can be located at www.consumerassociation.ie.
the network of European Consumer Centres which was established to assist consumers with cross border disputes. The centres give information and advice on problems with shopping across borders and intervene where problems arise. In Ireland the European Consumer Centre is based at 13A Upper O'Connell Street, Dublin 1. The telephone number is 01 809 0600. The website address is: www.eccdublin.ie.
the network for settling cross border financial disputes out of court - FIN-NET. FIN-NET aims to facilitate out-of-court resolution of disputes when the consumer and the financial services provider (bank, insurance company, etc.) come from different EU member states. It provides the consumer with an alternative way to solve disputes quickly, cheaply and easily and may reduce your need to go to court. Further information on FIN-NET is available at http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/finservices-retail/finnet/index_en.htm.
If I do not obtain redress through the above non-judicial procedures, are there any further alternatives open to me to enforce my Community law rights?
If, despite the measures you have taken, you believe that your single market rights have not been respected, you could consult with a solicitor and commence proceedings in the national courts. Although national authorities are responsible in the first instance for applying Community law properly, the national courts ensure that they actually do.
What is the advantage for me of taking a case before the national courts?
The advantage of taking a case before the national courts is that they can reverse a decision taken by a national authority which concerns you. You may also be able to obtain an injunction to ensure the immediate suspension of the offending action. In addition, if you have suffered loss from the failure of the national authorities to implement Community law correctly, you may be able to seek financial compensation by pursuing the action before the national courts.
What if I cannot afford a solicitor?
Advice may be obtained from one of the Free Legal Advice Centres or from one of the Citizens Information Centres located around the country. Legal aid may be available from your local law centre. Contact details for these centres can be found in your local telephone directory.
How will the national court decide a case involving European Community law?
Before deciding a case involving Community law, the national courts may, and in some cases must, refer the matter to the European Court of Justice if clarification on an issue of Community law is required. A system of preliminary rulings has been established to ensure that Community law is interpreted and applied uniformly throughout the European Union. You may bring to the national court's attention the possibility of referring an issue to the European Court of Justice.
On referral of an issue, the European Court of Justice states what the relevant Community law is but it cannot decide the outcome of a particular case. The final decision on the dispute is always taken by the national courts which must respect Community law as interpreted by the ECJ. A ruling on interpretation given by the European Court of Justice also serves as a precedent for other national courts dealing with a substantially similar problem.