High Court: Irish courts have jurisdiction to hear injuries claim against UK-based company involving breach of consumer contract
The High Court has determined that the Irish courts had jurisdiction to hear and determine claim against a UK-based company for breach of a consumer contract. The plaintiff was an Irish resident who had been injured on a cycling holiday in Sri Lanka organised by the defendant.
About this case:
- Citation: IEHC 297
- Court:High Court
- Judge:Mr Justice Garrett Simons
Delivering judgment in the case, Mr Justice Garrett Simons held that that the special rules on jurisdiction in consumer contracts conferred jurisdiction on the Irish courts. It was held that the defendant had directed its activities to the European Union market by, inter alia, organising an event outside the UK, displaying testimonials from Irish people and accepting payment in Euro.
The plaintiff was an Irish woman domiciled in the State who paid to go on a cycling holiday organised by the defendant company. The company, Redspokes Limited, was domiciled in the UK but the tour took place in Sri Lanka. The plaintiff arranged her own flights to Sri Lanka and joined the rest of the group.
Unfortunately, the plaintiff was injured on the trip and issued personal injuries proceedings against the defendant in Ireland in 2020. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant had breached the consumer contract which resulted in her injuries.
Subsequently, the defendant brought a motion to dismiss the proceedings on the basis that the Irish courts did not have jurisdiction to hear and determine the case. The primary issue between the parties was whether the rules under Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 governing jurisdiction over consumer contracts applied to the proceedings.
The general rule contained in the Brussels Regulation (Recast) was that a defendant should be sued in the member state where they were domiciled. However, if a dispute related to a consumer contract, then an action could be brought in the jurisdiction in which the consumer was domiciled irrespective of their nationality.
Further, a consumer contract included a contract where a party pursued commercial or professional activity in the member state of the consumer’s domicile or where the party “directs such activities to that member state”.
In the present case, the defendant argued that it did not direct its business to Irish consumers and had no intention to establish commercial relations with consumers from Ireland. By way of example, it was explained that the defendant paid for ads on internet search engines but did not target Ireland as part of these ads.
Mr Justice Simons began his decision by summarising the key decision of Joined Cases C-585/08 and C-144/09, Pammer. In that case, the CJEU held that the mere accessibility of the trader’s website did not mean that the trader was directing activity to that particular consumer. Instead, the trader must manifest an intention to establish commercial relations with other Member States.
The CJEU provided examples of the types of evidence capable of establishing that an activity was “directed to” a member state. These included, inter alia, the international nature of the activity, mention of telephone numbers with an international code, use of top-level domain names (e.g. “.com” or “.eu”) and the mention of international clientele/customers.
It was also held that if a website permits the use of a different language or currency, then this can be taken into consideration when determining if activity was directed at a particular member state.
Mr Justice Simons noted that these principles had been applied in several Irish cases (see Harkin v. Twopik  IEHC 351; McDonald v. AZ Sint Elisabeth Hospital  IEHC 88). In Harkin, it was held that the defendants did not direct activities to the Irish market as the telephone number was English, the website was a UK domain name and the currency used was Sterling.
In the present case, the court held that there were a number of factors which indicated that the defendant had directed activities to the Irish market. First, the cycling tour took place overseas and only began when the consumers met at the designated meeting point in Sri Lanka.
Second, the defendant did not arrange flights to Sri Lanka but did arrange to collect the participants from the airport. When combined with the fact that the plaintiff had been allowed to join the tour later due to flight arrangements, it was held that the defendant had facilitated the plaintiff to travel from Ireland for the tour.
Since the defendant did not arrange flights, it could not be said that the service was directed to consumers from the UK. Additionally, the website displayed testimonials from consumers where their nationalities were identified. The testimonials included an Irish person’s comments.
Further, the website allowed for payments in Euro, which showed that the defendant was directing the service to a market beyond the UK.
The court also attached some weight to the fact that the plaintiff was required to create an online account prior to purchasing the tour. The online form included city and country of residence. The practical effect was that the defendant was on notice of the plaintiff’s residence when it accepted her booking.
Finally, the court noted that the contact telephone number and internet domain names were neutral factors in the case. The defendant had a “.co.uk” internet address but included an international dialling code for its telephone number.
In the circumstances, the court held that the Irish courts had jurisdiction to hear the case based on the criteria for a consumer contract. Accordingly, the motion to dismiss the proceedings was refused.
Casey v. Redspokes Limited t/a Respokes Adventure Tours  IEHC 297