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NUJ charities benefit from "crass stunt" by Irish Mail

2 February 2012

A stunt by the Irish Mail on Sunday that deceived customers into believing it was the Sunday Tribune, following the paper’s closure, has backfired. Associated Newspapers have agreed to pay €15,000 to charities nominated by the NUJ.

The newspaper group also faces a large legal bill following a court case taken by National Consumer Agency, the Irish consumer watchdog, after it published under a wraparound bearing the title of Sunday Tribune. 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.

Justice Gibbons said the Irish Mail on Sunday had made a "serious error" and said the company had been "overzealous and overenthusiastic". The company had been prosecuted by the National Consumer Agency following a series of complaints from members of the public, including Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary, 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 National Union of Journalists 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 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."

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

NUJ Extra was set up to help members and their dependents through times of financial difficulty. 

The George Viner Memorial Fund is designed to improve educational opportunities for Black and Asian students in the UK and Ireland. The Fund was set up to honour the career and dedication of George Viner. Financial help from the fund has given more than 150 students to date the opportunity to study for a recognised journalism qualification and enter the industry.

Tags: , Sunday Tribune, Mail on Sunday, newspapers, charities, nuj extra, george viner memorial fund, associated newspapers