The Workplace Relations Commission rules Daft Media Ltd must remove and prevent adverts with discriminatory language on their website.
Recently, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) issued an order calling for Daft.ie to remove ads from their website platform that contained discriminatory language. This significant decision follows a three-year-long legal contest between Daft Media Ltd and the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHREC).
WRC Rules Against Daft Media Ltd.
The official ruling by WRC states that Daft.ie must “refrain from publishing, displaying or permitting to be published or displayed on its website advertisements that indicate an intention to engage in prohibited conduct”.
In addition to this restriction, the company must “develop a methodology to identify, monitor and block discriminatory advertising on its website” in accordance with a list of terms and specific words determined by the WRC to be discriminatory.
Daft Media Ltd operates Daft.ie, Ireland’s largest property website. According to figures, the site lists approximately 70,000 properties for sale or rent at any given time and has an estimated 2.5 million unique visits each month.
The WRC has determined that adverts placed on Daft.ie’s website breach the Equal Status Act specifically in regard to family status, age and rent allowance status. The discriminatory terms addressed in the ruling included such phrases as “professionals only”, “references required”, or “rent allowance not accepted”.
WRC Rejects Daft’s Immunity Argument
The WRC rejected Daft Media Ltd’s assertion that it is immune to legal action under EU laws. Arguing that their platform serves as a “mere conduit” for online content posted by others. According to their position submitted to the WRC, the company claimed that they are not an advertiser or a publisher, but rather an Information Society Service Provider (ISSP) as defined by the EU e-Commerce directive. Under this status, they are not responsible for the content of the material that is published on their website.
The Commission rebutted this assertion in their lengthy ruling saying that Daft Media Ltd, “has a vicarious liability for advertisements placed on its website by third parties where these constitute a breach of the Equal Status Act”.
Discriminatory Adverts Still Live
According to the Journal and Irish Independent, adverts containing terms deemed discriminatory by the WRC are still live on Daft.ie’s platform after the ruling was handed down. A query of listings on the site returned adverts that state “professionals only” and “suitable for one mature lady” still active. One listing even included the following discriminatory language, “Please do not come for a viewing if you cannot bring copies of proof of current employment and financial solvency (3m bank statements)”.
Daft.ie lists a series of guidelines for advertisers on their website, including one that reads, “Discrimination in advertising is not permitted and all advertising must comply with all applicable laws as regards property listings and/or accommodation advertising.”
A spokesman for Daft.ie stated that adverts that are reported for discriminatory language are reviewed by their customer support team and those property listings currently live on the website containing any of the terms or phrases mentioned in the WRC ruling are “in a queue” pending a manual review.
In a statement issued by the company, they clarified that “In the sharing section of the site, however, there are some intricacies associated with the requirements of the landlord that differ from general renting ads. For that reason, we allow them to make certain stipulations on who they would prefer to share their home with; for example, females only”.
This ruling is a significant reminder to landlords to take note of the law regarding discriminatory property sale and rental adverts.