Enforcement of regulatory compliance requirements in Ireland is split between a number of regulatory bodies. For instance, the Central Bank of Ireland is responsible for the regulation of financial institutions; the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement is charged with enforcing the Companies Acts; the Health and Safety Authority enforces occupational safety and health law; the Commission for Communications Regulation regulates the telecoms sector; and the Private Residential Tenancies Board enforces the obligation of landlords to register their tenancies.
There is no uniform framework for regulatory legislation in this country, and each of these regulatory bodies has a range of different enforcement options open to them to pursue. The various statutory provisions applicable to each regulatory body will differ and are not always consistent.
The Law Reform Commission has recently invited submissions on whether the efficiency and effectiveness of regulation in Ireland could be improved by creating a single set of statutory regulatory powers that could be used by some or all of these regulators. The relevant powers could include inspection and investigation powers, such as the power to enter a premises or require the production of certain documents; and enforcement powers such civil financial sanctions and negotiated compliance agreements.
Legislation aiming to standardise regulatory enforcement powers has already been introduced in Australia (by way of the Regulatory Powers (Standard Provisions) Act 2014) and in the UK (by way of the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008).
While not all enforcement powers will be relevant or appropriate for each regulator, and some bodies will need bespoke powers to fit their statutory mandate, it is submitted that a standard set of powers, applicable to some or all of the regulatory bodies as appropriate, would go a long way towards achieving consistency in the area of regulatory compliance in this jurisdiction. It may also promote cooperation between regulators and assist them in working together. It remains to be seen what provisions, if any, will be introduced on foot of the Law Reform Commission’s recommendations when they are published.