The Government has published its legislation programme for Autumn 2021. We have set out below the status of key Bills of relevance to the data protection, commercial and technology sector.
Priority legislation for publication and drafting this Autumn
- Online Safety and Media Regulation (OSMR) Bill – This Bill will provide for the establishment of a multi-person Media Commission (including an Online Safety Commissioner), the dissolution of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, a regulatory framework to tackle the spread of harmful online content, and implementation of the revised Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive 2018/1808. The Heads of Bill were published on 9 January 2020, with additional provisions approved on 8 December 2020 and 18 May 2021. The government also approved the integration of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill into the OSMR Bill. Member States were due to implement the revised AVMS Directive in national law by 19 September 2020, so Ireland has missed this deadline. Pre-legislative scrutiny is ongoing. Further background information information on the proposed Bill is available here.
- Consumer Rights Bill – This Bill will give effect to two EU Directives (770/2019 and 771/2019) on consumer contracts for the supply of digital content and digital services, and on consumer contracts for the sale of goods. It will also update and consolidate the statutory provisions on consumer rights and remedies in relation to contracts for the supply of non-digital services, unfair contract terms, and information and cancellation rights. The General Scheme of the Bill has been published for public consultation. The Heads of Bill were approved on 20 April 2021.
Other Bills where preparatory work is underway
- Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill – This Bill will repeal and replace the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, to provide for new and aggravated criminal offences. The Heads of Bill were approved on 14 April 2021.
- Communications (Data, Retention and Disclosure) Bill – This Bill will revise and replace the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011. The Heads of Bill were published in October 2017, following publication of Mr Justice Murray’s Report reviewing the ‘Law on the Retention of and Access to Communications Data’, which found that many features of the 2011 Act are precluded by EU law. In Dwyer v Commissioner of An Garda Siochána  IEHC 48, the High Court made a declaration that section 6(1)(a) of the 2011 Act is inconsistent with EU law, insofar it allows telephony data to be retained on a general and indiscriminate basis for the purpose of disclosure to Garda for the prevention/investigation of a serious offence . Last year, the Supreme Court referred six questions to the European Court of Justice in relation to this case. The new Bill will likely take account of the outcome of the CJEU referral.
- Communications Regulation (Enforcement) Bill – To update the civil and criminal enforcement regime for the Commission for Communications Regulation, to introduce new consumer protection measures for consumers of electronic communications services and amend Part 2, 3 and 5 of the Communications Regulation Act, 2002.
- Cybercrime Bill – This Bill will give effect to those provisions of the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime 2001 not already provided for in national law, in order to enable ratification of the Convention.
- Defamation (Amendment) Bill– This Bill will update aspects of defamation law, following statutory review of the Defamation Act 2019.
- Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) (Amendment) Bill – This Bill will amend various pieces of legislation in respect of electronic communications. In 2016, the government published a policy document discussing why this area of law needs to be amended (discussed here). Revised Heads of Bill are in preparation.
Bills enacted since Government came into Office on 27 June 2020
- Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020 – This Act creates new offences in relation to harassment and harmful communications, both online and offline. It came into force on 10 February 2021.