Privacy, a human right for the digital age


Everyone needs to know about Privacy. The Law Society of Ireland is running a MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) on Privacy, featuring some of the leading experts in the area. I’ve already signed up, but will also be participating as a lecturer, discussing what you need to know about your rights to Privacy under the law. The course is essential for anyone with an interest in what Privacy means in the digital age. It’s free of charge and open to anyone. Click here for more information on this exciting and essential course.

The Anton Savage Show – iPhones, Holiday Insurance


Listeners’ problems this week were a faulty iPhone – who should replace it?; and Holiday Insurance – does it cover a premature birth?

Here’s the slot.

And here are my notes:


As a general rule, the law places the obligation to replace or repair any faulty item on the retailer. This is in the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980. The 1980 Act applies specifically to consumers, because unlike business customers, we are not in a position to bargain with large companies such as phone companies. However, where it is explicitly provided for in the contract, some of the terms of the 1980 Act can be contracted out of. I haven’t seen our listener’s contract, but I presume that this obligation is explicitly excluded in it.

Meteor’s policy

Less than 28 days – device is faulty (excluding iPhone)

If you find that your phone or broadband device is not working properly you have 28 days to return it to one of our Meteor stores listed here. Exchanges and refunds of faulty phones (excluding iPhones) will be provided within 28 days of the purchase date and where the fault can be verified in store. All returns should be accompanied with a valid receipt, all packaging the phone came in, any associated accessories and the phone manual. Your manufacturer’s warranty will be deemed void should the phone be physically damaged (including moisture damaged). Please read the manufacturer’s manual for details of warranty T’s&C’s.

I contacted Meteor and they said the reason for this exclusion is that it is passed on from Apple themselves. The relevant section of Apple’s own Terms & Conditions is:

Apple’s Warranty

If you submit a valid claim under this warranty, Apple will, at its option:
(i) repair the Apple Product using new or previously used parts that are equivalent to new in performance and reliability, or
(ii) replace the Apple Product with a product that is at least functionally equivalent to the Apple Product and is formed from new and/or previously used parts that are equivalent to new in performance and reliability, or
(iii) refund your purchase price in exchange for the return of your Apple Product.

Apple are famous for wanting to keep everything in-house. They’ve been derided in the past as “control freaks” because of this. They don’t want just any old shop selling their products, and they certainly don’t want any old shop trying to repair them. So this system, where they take on the obligations of the retailer, is really just another manifestation of that attitude.

However, EU law can;t be contracted out of in this way, so the “cooling off period”, discussed by us before, still applies. You can bring your phone back to the store for any reason or for no reason, and get a full refund. You don’t have to send it to Apple:

Less than 14 days:
If for any reasons you are not happy with your new phone or broadband device, under the Consumer Information, Cancellation and Other Rights Regulations 2013 you have the right to cancel your contract by providing us with a clear written statement (letter by post or e-mail) to this effect, within fourteen days of the date you acquire possession of the phone or broadband device . You may use the notice published on the “Cooling off” section of our web site for this purpose. If you cancel your contract we will reimburse you all payments including costs of delivery, without undue delay and in no case less than 14 days from the date we are informed of your decision to cancel this contract. We will carry out the reimbursement using the same means of payment as you used for the initial transaction, unless you have expressly agreed otherwise; in any event, you will not incur any fees as a result of such reimbursement.”

For non iPhone customers, any faulty phone is the retailer’s responsibility.

Travel Insurance
I was contacted by one of the two insurers our listener had contacted (I mistakenly named Multitrip in the slot. In fact, it was Insure and Go, who were extremely helpful ) and they told me that they do not require customers to notify them of pregnancy until very close to the delivery date. Our listener is comfortably within that period. They also told me that while they don’t cover ordinary pregnancy health expenses, such as non-emergency doctors visits, they do cover premature births. So, in the event that our listener has her baby prematurely, not only will she be covered for the delivery, but care for the baby will also be covered. This is obviously very important to know, because premature babies usually do require significant treatment or at least hospital support. They told me that this cover has on occasion included arranging for a prematurely born child to be repatriated afterwards.
Most insurers will treat a premature birth as a medical emergency, so the cover will usually be the same, but there are conditions which can vary between providers. For example, I saw one that required that you get confirmation from a doctor that you are fit to travel no more than five days prior to the start of the trip. Others require only that you not travel against a doctor’s advice. In general, the cheaper the policy, the more strings attached, so be sure to get clarity on what you’re covered for before signing up.

The Anton Savage Show – Holiday Rentals, House Cleaning

AntonTwo topics again this week, one on the rental of a holiday cottage, and one from a caller who had something broken by a house cleaner.

Here’s the slot.

And here are my notes:

I contacted the letting agency, Connemara Coastal Cottages, and they came back to me with the following response:

1. This is a true Irish traditional cottage please find link to the page for your info:

2. We were in the property on the morning our clients moved in to note it was torrential rain and continued to rain like this for a couple of days. This always unsettles clients. We found the property to be clean neat and tidy and in good order.

3. Most pictures on the page were taken on that day.

4. We have been a rental agents for more than 20 years and know what to look for in an inspection.

5. When booking a traditional Irish cottage people should not expect it to be totally modernised. We keep a few on our books because people like them. We have plenty of modern properties that can be booked.

6. When we were contacted regarding the property we only had one property that we could move her to and this was refused. This was the middle of peak season. We felt the complaint did not merit a full refund

7. The complaint process was conducted in the correct manor (sic).

The description of the cottage on the website does refer to it as “a traditional Irish stone cottage” and mentions “free standing oil-filled Dimplex electric radiators” rather than any central or storage heating, so the owner can make a reasonable argument that all tenants have advance notice of the kind of place they are renting.

Photographs may be a different matter. They mention that most of the photographs on the site were taken the morning our listener moved in. If so, this means that the photos that our listener saw may have been out of date. If the house was very different from the one depicted on the website when you booked, you may have an argument that you didn’t get what you booked.

However, if, as they claim, you turned down a reasonable replacement, you may have no complaint. Of course this depends on whether the replacement was reasonable – if it was uninhabitable or smaller than your cottage, it probably wasn’t. If you turned it down because you just didn’t like it, then it probably was. Our listener says that they she was offered a replacement elsewhere in Connemara, 35 miles. That’s probably not a reasonable replacement.

As a general rule, where you are not happy with a holiday rental, you should:

Don’t wait until the end of your holiday to complain. You should complain to your accommodation manager, owner or local rep as soon as you realise there’s a problem.

Where possible, put your complaint in writing. The best way to do this is by email, because an email contains a time stamp, so you can prove you sent it in time.

Take photographs – it’s much harder for an owner to claim the premises were in good condition when you have photographs of mould, dirt, broken windows, etc.
In this case, as in any other, the question is how bad was it? There’s a scale that runs from mildly disappointing to completely unfit for purpose, with a lot of grey area in between. The problem with holidays is that even a mild disappointment can ruin the whole holiday. However, in order to have a legal case, you need to be able to say that you didn’t get what you paid for, to such a degree that that there was a breach of contract.

A contract for a holiday letting is completed on your arrival – if you refuse to take occupancy you may be able to walk away from the contract, though you will still need good reason for doing so. However, you may lose any deposit paid.

There’s always an element of unpredictability with holiday lettings, so where possible try to book from sites that allow user reviews, such as trip advisor. These sites often have visitor photos which are often more candid than owner photos, and will give you a better idea of what the place is really like.


The email from the cleaners regarding insurance is a red herring – if they or their staff broke something of yours, they are required to replace it or pay the value. Whether they have insurance or not is no concern of yours.

They seem to have changed their mind about this later because our listener mailed us back as follows:

So this is what happened…
I went into Brown Thomas and told them the story and they very kindly printed me out an insurance valuation receipt which had the cost of the item on it, as it turns out it was €100 not 80 as we had originally thought. (Many thanks to Magda and Anne in Brown Thomas Cork who were lovely and went out of their way to help me!)

I emailed on this to the cleaning guys yesterday and got an email back asking me for photos of the broken item (really!! They broke it so they’ve already seen it!!), I also missed a phonecall from them all immediately after I sent my email. Within a few minutes I then (having not responded to phonecall or email in meantime) received the following text;

I am sorry about broken item.
The cost of cleaning is €90 so we owe you €10. It will be with the invoice.
Sorry again
Kind regards

As of yet we have not received this invoice or €10, the cleaning was done last Friday.

I’m not sure how it would have gone had I not been given the valuation receipt, it would be good to know what my rights are had we not gotten a receipt for them!

This is pretty straightforward – they broke it, they have to pay for it. The receipt isn’t really a factor, except that it’s a way of verifying the cost. You could as easily go online and find the cost there, it shouldn’t make any difference to the cleaning company.

Again, it’s important to complain right away, and to take photographs. Our listener seemed a bit put out at being asked for photos, but remember that the person writing the cheque is not the same as the one who was in your house, and they need to verify that the accident actually happened.

One thing to remember though is that not all cleaners are employees. There are services which have started up recently based on the Uber model – they facilitate cleaners who are operating as sole traders, so there’s also the question of how comfortable you are with taking the money directly from the cleaner rather than the company, and whether you are willing to take them to court over it.


The Anton Savage Show – Health Insurance, Online Gambling

AntonTwo topics on this week’s show, a health insurance issue, and one about online gambling.
And here are my notes:
Health Insurance
I contacted the VHI about this and am happy to say that they have resolved the matter to the
customer’s satisfaction. He should have got a call recently from VHI and will get his payment
VHI’s statement:
Vhi cannot comment of the specific of an individual case .
Most claims are settled in 5/6 days . The average time for processing a claim is 5 to 6
days of receiving a fully completed claim form and the necessary supporting
documentation. In cases where the medical information is incomplete we make every
effort to follow up with the medical provider to gather this information on behalf of
our customer.
What might cause certain claims to take longer to process?
The main reason for a delay would be where we receive insufficient information to
support the payment of the claim from the provider . Rather than reject the claim
outright we make every effort to follow up with the treating hospital or the consultant
to get the information we require so that we can pay the claim . This can be a lengthy
process but we do keep the customer informed so that they know the matter is being
pursued on their behalf with the provider.
Is there a complaints procedure for customers who feel their claim is taking too long?
Yes, we do have a complaints handling procedure in place and all complaints whether
verbal or written are handled efficiently , fairly and in accordance with the consumer
protection code.
VHI also placed great stress on the fact that only 2% of claims to them are refused.
Pre­existing conditions may render a claim invalid. For example, some policies don’t cover
you for a pre­existing condition for several years (5 to 10 depending on your age) after you
commence your cover. Policies also may not cover you for any illness at all for between 6
and 24 months after you sign up (again, this depends on age).
More generally, health insurance is subject to 3 main principles:
Open enrolment ­- insurance companies must accept anyone who wishes to join
Lifetime cover – once signed up, you can’t be kicked off a scheme
Community rating ­-  all adults pay the same amount for the same benefits, unlike
motor or life insurance.
“Lifetime Community Rating” was brought in with the aim of spreading the overall cost of
insurance in order to pay for this principle of equality.
Pokerstars is owned by the Rational Group, who also operate a number of other major
gambling brands. Like many gambling sites, they are based in the Isle of Man.
I’ve searched in vain for a press office for Pokerstars or their parent company, but they don’t
strike me as a company who like to be contacted. I eventually found a press email address,
but they haven’t made any reply. They do have a sister company in Ireland, Full Tilt Poker,
and sponsor a poker event in Ireland in February 2016, so I may have another crack at getting
hold of them in the coming weeks and months.
The traditional position of the courts regarding gambling was that they’d have no part of it. So
if someone welshed  on a bet, you couldn’t go to court to get him to pay up. The courts
believed gambling agreements to be immoral contracts, and wouldn’t enforce them.
In our listener’s case, it seems that the money was literally lost by the company, either
through an administrative error or through poor security which allowed someone else to hack
the account and steal the money. This is more like negligence than a gambling loss, so you
might have a case.
A problem is caused by the location of the website, though. The Isle of Man is a crown
dependency, which means that it is subject to the rule of the Queen of England, but is not a
part of the UK. This means that it is also not a part of the EU. The upshot of this is that it is
harder to sue people there. The EU has a system which makes it easier to sue people and
companies across borders. This isn’t available in respect of the Isle of Man.
People can and do pursue Isle of Man registered gambling sites in the Manx Courts. For
example, last year a Scottish punter won £24,000 on an accumulator, only to find that the
betting site 666Bet  had its gambling license suspended just days later. The question for our
listener is whether the amount of money is worth the trouble of instructing a Manx solicitor.

The Anton Savage Show – Clamping


This week’s topic on the show is one that really gets people going – vehicle clamping. This was the email we received from a listener:

 Hi Anton,

Yesterday morning I awoke coughing up blood. I have Cystic Fybrosis, and this is one of the unfortunate effects of the illness that can occur. But when it does it is best to be on the safe side, so I arranged with the nurse in the CF Unit in Limerick Regional Hospital to be admitted that afternoon. I’m 21 years old and not living with family members as I am renting a room near my place of work, so I chose to drive myself. I arrived shortly after 2pm, but when I entered the hospital grounds it became clear there were no parking spaces in any of the Hospital car parks. Each one had a queue of around 5-10 cars. Since my appointment to get my x-ray and picc line inserted was at 2:30pm, I decided to park in a next door car park behind a petrol station. I figured if I paid for 2 hours parking there, it would give me enough time to have my procedures done and get admitted into my room and then return to the car and bring it inside the hospital grounds (as the car parks would be quiter by then). So at 2:18 pm, I paid for my ticket and placed it on the dashboard and continued on to the hospital.

An admission is usually quite a stressful day as it is. There can be long periods of waiting. The picc line isn’t the most pleasant procedure, it involves inserting a small tube going from your arm to your heart to administer anti biotics directly to your veins. So after all of this is done, you want to sit down in your room and relax. But I first had to go back for my car. I got back to the car park where my car was parked just after 4:15pm, perfect timing as my ticket expired at 4:18pm. Or so I thought. When I got there I saw some notices on my car and a big yellow clamp on the front wheel. I’m generally not a person who loses his temper easily, so I stayed calm. I checked the dashboard and the ticket wasn’t there, it had fallen on to the front drivers seat, maybe from a gust of wind. Since the ticket was still there and valid I figured it was just a misunderstanding, and that if I called them up they could sort it out once I explained the circumstances.

The company responsible for the clamping are called NCPS, National Controlled Parking Scheme. Bear in mind that due to this specific car parks location, the majority of people parking there would be going to the hospital. Whether it be patients, visitors, outpatients etc. Sick people, people going through hard times, possibly having family members in a ward. Vulnerable people. I have no doubt that this is why the clampers pay so much attention to this specific location.

I called them up, and while the first person I spoke to was very polite and nice, it became clear that he was not going to approve removing the clamp unless I paid the fine. He said that because the ticket had fallen onto the seat it was no longer “clearly visible”, therefore the clamp was valid. I decided to consider my options first, so I said I would ring back and ended the call. I consulted with some of the nurses on my ward but couldn’t really see any alternative myself other than to pay it. The longer I left the car there the more chance they would try add extra charges. They suggested trying to speak to a supervisor this time when I rang.

The supervisor I spoke to was not as nice as the first employee I spoke to. His tone was quite impatient, and he seemed to have no interest in listening to the circumstances of the clamping. As far as he was concerned the clamp was not being removed unless the fee was paid. I felt I was getting no where, and wanted to get my car into the hospital so I could bring in my bags and medicines, so I payed the fine. The driver who had clamped the car came and removed the clamp within minutes. I was not at the car at the time, so didn’t get to speak to him or hear his opinion.

I’m writing this from my hospital room the morning after, still bitter about the encounter. The supervisors lack of empathy really struck me. He said he can not remove the clamp unless the fee was paid. I checked their website it said that the clamp could be removed without fee under “extreme circumstances”. I’m wondering would I have had to collapse while going back and forth to my clamped car with my severely damaged lungs for them to consider it extreme circumstances.

I hope this email helps aware people on the dealings of some of these privately owned companies. Taking money from the sick is far more important to them than maintaining any sort of integrity or decency. Worse is that these clamping companies are not regulated at all. They are privately owned and therefore not subject to regulation from the Council Traffic Department. They can clamp any car they wish, charge any fee they like, and nobody can do a thing because they make their own rules without regulation.

This was my response.

And here are my notes for the show:

Clamping in public places has been common for quite some time. Generally, although nobody likes it, people understand that it’s needed in order to keep parking spaces available and to prevent abuse. There’ll always be hard cases, where people arrive back just as the clampers pull away, or where they’ve “just popped into the shops for a few minutes”, but people generally see clamping as a necessary evil.

What really annoys people is private clamping. Nobody likes that sense that the clampers are making money out of inconveniencing them, or the idea that there is no real public purpose being served.

Until recently, clamping on private land (including hospitals) was completely unregulated. This led to a lot of stand-offs where the owner refused to pay (for, e.g where there wasn’t enough signage to indicate that clampers were operating) and the clamper refused to remove the clamp. Gardaí often ended up being called, but couldn’t do much to intervene, as this was essentially a private property dispute – the landowner and the car owner both having rights over their respective property. There were also reports of “rogue clampers” essentially holding cars to ransom, even where they were perfectly legally parked. In theory (although I doubt anyone ever tried this out in practice – except maybe a lawyer) you could sue a clamper for “detinue”, the wrongful taking of personal property. Of course their defence would be that they were defending their property from unauthorised trespass.

Thankfully there is now some regulation, so that at least there is a bit more certainty about your rights. The Clamping Act, 2015 recently passed the Oireachtas. At committee stage, Catherine Murphy proposed that it ban outright the use of clamps on Hospital ground. The minister, Pascal O’Donoghue, rejected the amendment. In the UK, clamping on all private land is illegal. The rationale for not banning it here seems to be to allow property owners to defend their constitutional property rights – though of course the motorist also has property rights to defend, and there are plenty of restraints on property rights in the public interest.

The new law does require that clamping can only occur where there is prominent, clearly visible signage, displaying the clamp release charge, the tow-away charge and any other charges that might apply. It also sets maximum fines for private clampers of €100 for clamping plus €50 for tow-away. The NTA also has the power to set different maximums. It also bans the clamping of ambulances, which believe or not, has happened in the past, preventing seriously ill people from being taken to hospital.

It also requires that there be an appeals process in place, first to the parking controller (which would be the car park in this case) and then to the National Traffic Authority.

Our listener was parked in a private car park rather than in the hospital itself. NCPS have an appeals system in place. Unfortunately the NTA haven’t got around to setting up the secondary appeals process under the act yet. In fact, a lot of the structures provided for under the Act, such as the code of practice for clampers, don’t seem to have been put in place by the NTA yet (see this piece in today’s Irish Times

I contacted the HSE to see whether hospitals had set up any appeals process. It would seem that the most logical way to deal with this in hospital car parks would be to come up with a single appeals process at HSE level for all hospitals. However, the HSE say that hospitals have a variety of owners, so its up to them to put in place their own appeals processes. I would be surprised if all, or even most of them have done so yet, bearing in mind the Clamping Act was only passed in May (Limerick Hospital have promised to get back to me with a statement regarding the situation in their car park prior to tomorrow morning’s show)

At present, many of the private car parking operators already operate a two stage appeals process not unlike the one envisaged under the clamping act. They say that about one in four of those cases that reach the second stage are given full or partial refunds, but that very few people (under 5% of all clampings) actually pursue appeals. This may be because people might feel harshly dealt with mat the time, but ultimately realise that “I was only a few minutes late” isn’t a ground for appeal, and don’t pursue the matter (there’s a fee for pursuing the second stage appeal).

The Clamping Act comes in response to many complaints about the manners and attitude of clampers, and allows for complaints to be made to the NTA about how clampers go about their jobs. But without a Code of Practice in place (the NTA say it will come at the end of this year at the earliest) it’s hard to see what practical effect a complaint can have.

Also yet to come from the NTA are regulations on how long a vehicle must be be parked before it’s clamped, how long again before it’s towed, and how long it should take to get the clamp removed.

The Anton Savage Show – Employment Law


Another familiar topic for me this week – Employment law. This was our listener’s email:

Dear Fergal, could you please help. My wife worked in a local hotel in a small town until leaving recently. It’s three weeks since she left and the owner refuses to pay her the holiday money she is owed and wages she has earned and badly needs right now. Do you have any advice? If she finds out I wrote to your show she will probably die of embarrassment but she really needs the money and I find this very unfair

This was my response.

And here are my notes:

Non-payment of wages and Employment rights generally
If you lose your job you have certain rights and entitlements including the right to be paid for work you have done and holidays you have earned. If you have not been paid by the date of dismissal or if you are still owed some wages, you have a legal entitlement to be paid them. The Payment of Wages Act 1991 regulates how your employer pays you, establishes your right to a payslip and states what legal deductions your employer can make from your pay. A non-payment is an unlawful deduction.

You can make a complaint, within 6 months. Use the “Single Complaint Form” available from The case will go to a Rights’ Commissioner, and will be fairly straightforward – you need only prove two things, that you worked the relevant hours, and that you didn’t get paid. It’s a good idea to keep any payslips, timesheets, etc, or to print out any work emails or other correspondence that show that you were working on the days in question.

Other Employment Rights

Many of these rights are limited to employees, so if you are freelance, or an independent contractor, they might not apply to you. There’s no strict rule on what makes you an employee, but important elements include whether you are on PAYE, whether you are registered for VAT, whether you are allowed to work for other people, how closely you are supervised. If you’re not an employee, there may be solutions available to you, just not under Employment law.

    The right against unfair dismissal/constructive dismissal.

Unfair dismissal can be unfair either because it was for no good reason, or because it was done without giving you fair procedures during and in the lead-up to the dismissal process.
Constructive dismissal is where you are forced out of your job. You resigned, but only because you were given no real choice.
You are also entitled to the proper notice when dismissed. This can be anything from 1-8 weeks, depending on your length of service. Payment can be given in lieu of notice.

Paid Holidays

20 days per full year worked (less if you don’t work the full year.
A paid holiday on all Bank Holidays, or else a paid day off within a month, an additional day of annual leave, or an additional day’s pay.

    Working Hours

The maximum average working week is 48 hours. This does not mean that it is prohibited to work more than these hours in any week, nor does it mean that one can stop work when you have worked 48 hours in a week. However it means that on average your working time should not be greater than 48 hours over a period of 4 months.
11 hours daily rest in each 24 hour period. This means that there must be 11 hours between the time you finish work and the time you start again.
1 period of 24 hours rest per week preceded by a daily rest period of 11 hours. This means you must have one day off per week
Rest breaks during work of 15 minutes after 4.5 hours have been worked; 30 minutes where up to 6 hours have been worked which may include the first break.
Zero Hours Working
“Zero hours contracts” require staff to be available for set hours each week, but with no guarantee they will get any specific amount of work. They are very common (and controversial) in the UK. The term was used quite a lot in relation to the Dunnes Stores dispute, but under Irish law, employees must be paid for at least 25% of the hours they are required to be available, whether they work them or not, so Irish employers tend to use “low-hours” contracts, where an employee might be guaranteed 15 hours with the possibility of more. However, there is no rule requiring those hours to be predictable, or saying how long a low-hours contract can go on for without. This gives the employer huge flexibility, and ensures a workforce that is unlikely to complain about anything unless they want their hours cut. In the wake of the Dunnes Stores dispute, there may be the political will to change the law in the area.


As with any form of victimisation, if you can show that bullying is discriminatory in nature, you may have a claim under Employment Equality. So if you are abused or insulted in ways that relate to your age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, family status, or membership of the traveller community, it may constitute discrimination. The same goes for inappropriate interview questions.
Ordinary bullying is a grey area in the law. Where it causes you significant stress (ie illness, rather than mere unhappiness) you may have a case against the employer. Where you have brought the bullying to your employers’ attention and they have not acted, this will strengthen your case. However, bullying is subjective, and what is experienced as bullying from one perspective may appear harmless from another. A more useful remedy than suing may be to refer the matter to the Labour Relations Commission’s conciliation and mediation services.

Maternity Leave

You are entitled to return to your old job or an equivalent on after the conclusion of your maternity leave. Any dismissal by reason of your pregnancy will be an unfair dismissal.


On redundancy, you are entitled to two weeks’ pay per year of service, plus one week. Some employers pay more than that, but they are not required to.
Voluntary redundancy is entirely at the discretion of the employers. You can challenge a decision to make you redundant, but there is no means to challenge a decision not to make you redundant.

Time Limits

Most complaints have to be made within 6 months of the incident. Don’t let your employer run down the clock by delaying. If you don’t complain in time, you can’t pursue the matter.

The Anton Savage Show – Getting a Divorce


My second outing in the Consumer Slot saw me on familiar ground – Family Law. This is the email we got from a listener:

I desperately need your advice.

After 16 years my husband and I are splitting up. He has had an affair and has moved out since the 1st march. He is in a house on his own (rent 380 a month)

We have a 7 month old baby boy who lives with me. My husband has not seen him since the 24th may – his choice.

We are now going to mediation to try and sort out finances and assets. I have a solicitor.

My question to you is regarding the house – what are my options.

As I’m working I am probably worse off!! I take annual leave Monday,parental (unpaid) Tuesday and work wed,thurs,fri.

Will I have to sell the house? Or buy him out and try and get a mortgage in my own name.

I am so worried about it. Any advice or help you could offer me would be appreciated.

And here are my notes on the show:

You are entitled to maintenance in respect of the child and possibly for yourself. There is no ceiling on the amount of maintenance that can be awarded, but the District Court can only order €150 per child or €500 spousal maintenance. If you are seeking more than that, you need to go to the Circuit Court. Of course there’s nothing to prevent you both from agreeing any amount of maintenance, without going to court.
While Child Maintenance is almost always ordered, courts are slower to award spousal maintenance, especially where both parties are working. In reality though, courts understand that the money all goes into the same household pot anyway.

You can apply for maintenance at any time, i.e. you don’t need to wait until the divorce proceedings. If you are in financial difficulty, you should apply right away, so that you can get some maintenance while you wait for the divorce to work its way through the courts. The same goes for access. You’ve said your husband doesn’t want to see your child, but if he wishes to he is entitled to apply to the District Court for an Access Order. Again, this is something that can be agreed between you without going to court.

Ireland has a no-fault divorce system, so the court will not be concerned with the break-up of the relationship, but with the future – what happens to the children, what happens to the house, ensuring that proper financial provision is made for all parties involved. The person who has custody of the child (i.e you) is often granted the right to live in the house until the child is no longer dependent (i.e. 18th birthday, or graduation from full-time edication). After that, there may be a case for selling the house, or for one of you buying the other out. That might include an examination of how much equity each of you has in the home – which will depend on how much money each of you paid towards the mortgage payments, the deposit, and the expenses of the household in general.

The arrangements for houses, mortgages, etc vary from case to case. The most important factor is how much the parties are earning. Both parties are required in a divorce to draw up an “affidavit of means” giving details of their income, expenses, assets and liabilities. The court will want to ensure that both parties can support themselves and any children in their custody, so they won’t order a bigger financial contribution than your husband can afford. On the other hand, where people are working and earning, they are required to support their children, which includes putting a roof over their heads. Sometimes, for e.g. where the house is quite large and valuable, courts will decide that the best way to use the equity is to sell the house and split the proceeds between the parties, allowing both to buy new homes. Courts often don’t like uprooting children from a family home, but given that your child is only a baby, that isn’t as big a concern here.

Any final settlement will take all the circumstances into account, so the amount of maintenance he has to pay will be influenced by the amount of the mortgage payments. If you can afford to buy him out, that would involve paying him a lump sum for the equity he owns in the house, and then removing him from the mortgage going forward. Against that you would have to weigh the maintenance the court believes he should pay – the court will look at the big picture. At any point if your financial situations change, i.e if either of you becomes significantly more or less wealthy, you can return to court to vary the maintenance arrangements. As your child gets older, various new expenses (school fees, etc) will arise, as well as the usual effects of inflation.

How EU Law Created The Football Transfer Window

Every year at about this time, the sports media, led by a hysterically over-excited Sky Sports, loses its mind. This weird state of mania culminates in the spectacle, repeated up and down England, of journalists standing outside football stadia, accompanied by small groups of eccentric football fans, most of whom are no better or worse informed about what’s going on than the journalists they spend this strange day with.


All are waiting for the news that a contract has been faxed (a quaint anachronism) on time, or possibly (and this would be a moment of high drama) not faxed on time. This is the transfer window, perhaps the ultimate embodiment of the vacuous, much-ado-about-nothing nature of modern football hype. For those who get angry about such things, Sky Sports may be the obvious pantomime villain, but in fact it is all the fault of the European Court of Justice.

Jean-Marc Bosman was a journeyman pro, playing with RFC Liège in the Belgian First Division. In 1990, his contract expired, he wanted to join Dunkerque in the French league (in today’s parlance, he “had agreed personal terms”). However Dunkerque refused to meet Liège’s transfer fee demand, so Liège refused to let him go, despite his having been out of contract. Not only that, but they reduced his wages as he was no longer a first-team player.


In the big-money world of modern football, there are occasional cases of players earning huge salaries to do nothing, and happy enough to stay that way. But in the early 90’s Belgian League, Bosman’s circumstances were different. He needed to work, and was not being allowed to do so. In fact, if one compares his situation (and that of all players out of contract) to any normal contract of employment, it seems monstrous. Imagine not being allowed to leave your job unless your new employer paid a transfer fee to your old one.

Bosman took his case to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and won. One of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the European Union is the right to free movement of workers, and the Court held that that this applied to footballers as well as any other worker. A “free transfer”, once granted to players only as a reward for long service, became the norm for any player no longer in contract, and is now more commonly known as a “Bosman”.

Not only that, but the Court also held that any system restricting clubs to a limited number of foreign players was equally offensive to the right to free movement of workers. Football authorities now found themselves facing a future where players could come and go far more easily, and where richer clubs could plunder smaller clubs for talent at will (in fact this is pretty much what has ended up happening anyway).


While all of this was going on, some European leagues had already experimented with transfer windows of their own. (Italy’s Serie A, then the greatest league in the world, already had a window which, then as now, culminated with the deals all being done and registered in the ATA Hotel in Milan, a literal “transfer market”. One presumes Sky Italia are grateful for the opportunity to centralise their Deadline Day coverage.)

All through the 90’s, vaguely aware of potential legal trouble, and desperate to avoid a complete transfer free-for-all, UEFA tried to obtain agreement to a standardised window system. This wasn’t achieved until in 2000 the European Commission suggested (correctly) that the whole transfer system as then constituted was illegal, and proposed scrapping it. By the 2002-2003 season, a compromise had reached with the Commission, and the window was in place Europe-wide.

The fact that the window is a compromise is worth noting. Were the law to be strictly applied, the window system is probably illegal. Preventing players from changing club outside the window clearly prevents them from moving freely, as guaranteed by the Treaties. However, the Commission has stated that in certain cases there can be “good sporting reasons” to justify some kinds of economic restrictions. Amongst these good sporting reasons are team stability and regularity of sporting competition. And so, while clubs often moan about the window, this compromise obtained from Brussels is probably a lot better than they’d get from Luxembourg. For that reason alone, they might one day look back on the age of the Deadline Day as (literally) a golden age.

The Anton Savage Show Consumer Slot – Home Alarms & Insurance

I’ve recently started doing a weekly consumer slot on the Anton Savage Show on Today FM. The slot will generally be on Tuesdays, a little after 9:30 in the morning. A listener contacts the show with a problem, and I advise them of their rights, as well as answering shorter questions texted and tweeted in by listeners. I’ll be posting my notes for each show here on this blog. If you have an issue you’d like covered by the show, email a short note to


The first query I received for the show was as follows:

Anton, just found out last night when my house alarm went off – due to a spider – that I did not receive a customary text alert on my mobile phone which I always do.

On ringing my alarm company (not Eircom) this morning mentioning this, I was told that Eircom have stopped supporting text alerts from house alarms at the end of June past. Why on earth would they do this ? Are people all over Ireland who have this system aware that they will not get an alert? Eircom have not notified me about this withdrawal of service and I am wondering if my house insurance will be an issue as a result.

This was my response.

And these are my notes:

The end of SMS notifications for alarms is a result of Eircom withdrawing their SMS via land line facility. Very few people ever used the facility, and they decided last year to withdraw it. Unfortunately, one of the few uses of the facility was the security industry. Some alarms are fitted with a dialler, which uses the land line to send you a message when the alarm goes off. I contacted Eircom, and they sent me this press release:

Fixed SMS Withdrawal
All landline customers currently have the ability to send SMS text messages using their home phone. From 30th June, this functionality will be withdrawn and it will not be possible to send or receive SMS text messages via eircom landlines after this date.

In theory, every eircom landline customer can used fixed SMS, although in reality the number of customers who actually use this service is a very small percentage of eircom’s total customer base.
In some cases, the service ‘Fixed SMS’ functionality may be used to support ancillary certain services such as monitored alarm services. Some alarm systems may use this technology to trigger notifications to the monitoring centre, and to customers, to inform them that their alarm has been activated.

We do not have insight into the number of people who use Fixed SMS for their monitored alarms, as this is not a service provided by eircom. Having had discussions with the security industry, it is felt that the number of people who do have Fixed SMS notifications for their alarm service is very low (i.e. none of the biggest alarm companies use this functionality). In order to find out if your property alarm is dependent on a Fixed SMS service, eircom recommends that you contact your monitored alarm provider.

You may be able to get your SMS alerts back, depending on who your alarm provider is. Some alarms come with a mobile dialler, which can send you SMS alerts without needing to use a land line. There are other services which link up with a smartphone app and send you a notification that way.

If you can find your contract with the alarm provider, maybe they’re required to provide you with SMS alerts. If so, you may be entitled to have them upgrade your alarm. If not, you should look at changing providers when the contract runs out.

It is unlikely that this will make a difference to your insurance, though you should check the fine print of your premium to make sure, as each policy is different.

Alarms can be vital to home insurance claims. Many insurance policies will offer discounted premiums based on having an alarm. Some will only require that you have “a working alarm”, others will require an alarm certified to standard EN50131, which means you need either a new alarm installed or the old one upgraded plus you will have to have it re-certified every year which requires an annual service and maintenance contract. In some cases this can cost more than the discount, and isn’t worth the trouble.

Remember also that if you avail of an insurance discount, you have to abide by its terms. If you don’t, and you get burgled, you may not be able to claim. So if you’re the sort of person who religiously switches on the alarm every time you go out, you might as well get some financial benefit. But many premiums require you to switch the alarm on every time you leave the property unattended, even if you are just popping out to the shops. So if you tend to forget sometimes, you might be safer to pay the full rate.

Other discounts available may inlcude

You have made no previous claims or have made no claims in the past three years
There is somebody over 50 living in the house
The residents of the house are non-smokers
A resident is usually in the house during the day
You have a smoke detector installed
You have security locks fitted on doors and windows
You have another insurance policy with the same company
Your house is in a neighbourhood watch area
The person applying is over 40, or in some cases over 50
The house is more than 10 years old.

As the list above indicates, contents insurance is just one kind of home insurance. Also available are Buildings insurance which covers you for damage to buildings, and liability insurance which covers you for injury to other people in or around your home. If you plan to get more than one kind of cover, you will usually find you get better value by getting a package from a single provider.

An important issue to consider in buying any kind of insurance is the “excess”. The excess is the amount that you have to pay yourself for any claim before your insurer pays the balance. Your insurer will reduce any claim settlement by the amount of the excess stated on your policy. You cannot claim for losses that are less than the excess.

The amount of the excess can depend on the insurer, but normally it is between €100 and €500 for standard claims on a home insurance policy. You can sometimes get a discount on your premium if you agree to a higher excess.


If need to make a claim, call your insurer or broker immediately. They often have a free emergency helpline. Give brief details of the claim and request a claim form. They may give you advice on what to do next. For example, if your home has been damaged, they may suggest you get some emergency repairs done. Always check that your insurer will cover the cost of any repairs.

For larger claims, such as a buildings claim on your home, you may want to hire an assessor. An assessor works on your behalf and will often negotiate with your insurance company to settle your claim. Assessors’ fees are not covered by your policy, so you will have to pay for this service yourself.

If your claim is refused, your insurance company or broker must write to you to explain the reasons why your claim was refused and give you details of how to appeal the decision.

Why Repealing The Human Rights Act Would Break A Promise To Ireland, North & South


Buoyed by his unexpectedly emphatic victory in the recent general election, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has been returning to some of his more controversial policy ideas, many of which had to be placed on hold for as long as he needed Liberal Democrat support to stay in government. Freed from the shackles of coalition, he has revisited his long-standing pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act. The Act, which incorporates into British law the European Convention on Human Rights, has long been a bete noir of Eurosceptic Tories (and, perhaps significantly, of UKIP voters) who are viscerally opposed to the notion of foreign judges overturning British laws, and who associate it, albeit incorrectly, with the European Union.

In fact, the Human Rights Act is not nearly as powerful as it appears in the imagination of the right-wing press, and the protections it offers can look somewhat feeble to those of us familiar with those available in countries with written constitutions. Nonetheless, the Act is much prized by the UK civil liberties and human rights communities, as a means, however imperfect, of holding the actions of the state up to scrutiny. They are therefore understandably alarmed by Mr. Cameron’s latest plans to scrap it within, he promises, the first one hundred days of his new government.

However there is a much neglected Irish angle to the debate, one which may yet stymie Mr. Cameron’s plans. Though the HRA was a New Labour Manifesto commitment, its passage was hastened by the Good Friday Agreement, which required that “The British Government will complete incorporation into Northern Ireland law of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), with direct access to the courts, and remedies for breach of the Convention, including power for the courts to overrule Assembly legislation on grounds of inconsistency”.

Not only that, but the ECHR is embedded into the very structure of the Northern Ireland Assembly, with all Assembly proposals to be “proofed” against the ECHR prior to their passage. (The Government of Ireland was also required to examine the question of incorporating the ECHR into our law, resulting in the European Convention on Human Rights Act, 2003.)

It would be reassuring to view this neglect of the Northern Irish angle as simply a function of an Anglo-centric Tory party simply forgetting about the concerns of the “Celtic Fringe”. After all, the ECHR is also embedded into the workings of the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies, in much the same ways as in Stormont. Will Mr. Cameron repeal the Human Rights Act in England only, at a time when the concept of the UK as a unified nation is on such unsteady ground? What then of the famous statement by Margaret Thatcher that Northern Ireland was “as British as Finchley”?

More worrying is a document produced in 2000 by the conservative Centre for Policy Studies. Entitled “The Price of Peace”, it denounces the Good Friday Agreement as “a threat not just to the Britishness of Northern Ireland but the British way of doing things…a capitulation to violence, a validation of terrorism…a humiliation of our Army, Police and Parliament. But, worse still, it is a denial of our national integrity, in every sense of the word.

The document specifically objects to human rights element of the Agreement, thundering that it “supplants common sense and common law, and erodes individual dignity by encouraging citizens to see themselves as supplicants and victims to be pensioned by the state”

The author of this jeremiad is none other than Michael Gove, recently appointed Justice Secretary, and the man tasked with the repeal of the Human Rights Act. “The Price of Peace” was written in the immediate aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement, when Mr. Gove was an opposition activist. It is possible that his views have mellowed. He has had ample years to watch the Northern Ireland settlement in operation, and he may he no longer see it as the Blairite stitch-up he describes in “The Price of Peace”. Nonetheless, nobody with a stake in the delicate, complicated and still fragile relationship between these islands can fail to be worried by proposals to tinker with it.

The commitments made by the UK government in 1998 are not to be taken lightly. They were not merely throwaway promises made in order to get a political deal over the line. They were rather necessary and solemn commitments made by the UK Government in the context of a historic settlement. These commitments were made not only to the Government of Ireland, but to the people of Northern Ireland. They were approved by referendums, North and South, and the British-Irish Agreement was deposited with the United Nations as an international treaty.

The Irish Government needs to be very clear that it too has a stake in this historic settlement, and should not allow it to be unpicked, least of all for reasons of domestic political expediency.