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Unsolicited Services (Trade and Business Directories) Act (Northern Ireland) 2010

Background and Policy Objectives

The Act re-enacts with amendments certain provisions of the Unsolicited Goods and Services (Northern Ireland) Order 1976 (S.I. 1976/57 (N.I. 1) (“the 1976 Order”). These provisions govern the processes of authorization by advertisers of entries in directories, for which demands for payment can legitimately be issued.

The 1976 Order was passed, amongst other reasons, to control the circumstances in which businesses could be charged for the publication of entries about them in directories. It had been the case prior to the 1976 Order, that unwary businesses could be tricked by various sharp practices into paying for directory entries for which they had not asked and which they did not want.

The Act is intended to remove provisions which the Department believes are burdensome and unnecessary, to remove anomalies and to ensure the compatibility of Northern Ireland law with obligations arising from membership of the European Union. In particular the Act ensures that the law on unsolicited services in Northern Ireland complies with Article 9(1) of Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (the E-Commerce Directive). Throughout the UK, Article 9(1) is being implemented on an ad hoc basis, where legislation is identified which contravenes its requirements.

The Act is also intended to facilitate electronic commerce by introducing equivalence between paper-based methods and electronic methods for contracting an entry in a directory.

The equivalent in Great Britain of the 1976 Order is the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971 (the “1971 Act”). The 1971 Act was amended by the Unsolicited Goods and Services (Amendment) Act 1975 (1975 c.13).

The Act has similar effects to the amendments made to the 1971 Act by the Regulatory Reform (Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971) (Directory Entries and Demands for Payment) Order 2005 (S.I. 2005/55); and the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971 (Electronic Commerce) (Amendment) Regulations 2005 (S.I. 2005/148). The Regulatory Reform Act 2001 does not apply to Northern Ireland legislation, so to achieve the same effects an Act of the Assembly is necessary.

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