Thursday 2 February 2012

NUJ charities boost from Irish MoS 'grave robbing'

A marketing stunt by the Irish Mail on Sunday which led readers into believing it was a special edition of the defunct Sunday Tribune has led to its publisher, Associated Newspapers, agreeing to pay €15,000 to charities nominated by the NUJ.

Associated also faces a legal bill following a court case taken by National Consumer Agency, the Irish consumer watchdog, after it published a wraparound (top) last February bearing the title Sunday Tribune when the struggling paper was in receivership.

Noirin Hegarty, the editor of the Sunday Tribune at the time, accused the Irish Mail on Sunday of being "shameless" and "grave robbing".

Judge Conal Gibbon, in a reserved judgment at Dublin district court, found that the Irish Mail on Sunday had deceived or misled customers. However, he found the company not guilty of having intended to deceive or mislead under the Consumer Protection Act 2007. He said it was “clear how a person could believe it was the Sunday Tribune”.

The National Consumer Agency alleged that the Mail on Sunday had breached the Consumer Protection Act with the four-page wraparound covering its issue of February 6th last year. It alleged that that the paper had broken the Act by deliberately deceiving or misleading the consumer and by promoting its own product in a way that would deceive or mislead the consumer.

The Mail on Sunday argued it was a legitimate marketing tactic.

The company was prosecuted by the National Consumer Agency following a series of complaints from members of the public, including Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary of the NUJ. Five consumers gave evidence of buying the special editions thinking they were the Tribune.

Judge Gibbons accepted a plea by counsel for Associated Newspapers that the Probation Act should be applied. The court ruled that the Mail on Sunday should pay €15,000 to charities chosen by the NUJ 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.

Séamus Dooley, who passed on the cheques from Associated Newspaper to the NUJ, said he was tricked into buying the Mail on Sunday twice, after buying it and the fake Sunday Tribune, which turned out to be a copy of the Mail. He described the Irish Mail on Sunday’s edition as “crass” and said it was as if the paper was “dancing on the graves of my members facing redundancies”.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “This ruling is of little consolation to the Sunday Tribune workers but it is nevertheless welcome. The Mail showed total disregard for the Sunday Tribune workers and acted in an insensitive manner.”

Two NUJ charities, NUJ Extra and the George Viner Memorial Fund, have each received €7,500, following the judge’s ruling.

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