25 Jun 2022

Portakabin secures orders aimed at allowing it identify who is behind Gmail account

Portakabin secures orders aimed at allowing it identify who is behind Gmail account

Portakabin has sought High Court orders directing Google to provide it with details about a Gmail account that has been sending allegedly defamatory messages to its customers.

Portakabin Ltd and Portakabin (Ireland) Ltd, which manufacturer and supply modular buildings, sought the orders so they can identify who in March and April of this year sent several messages aimed at damaging their business to their customers. 

Google does not oppose the application.

The application came before Mr Justice Senan Allen on Tuesday, who told the court that he had received by registered post an anonymous letter about the application, purportedly by the person behind the account.

While it was not appropriate to write to judges about cases before them, Mr Justice Allen said that he should raise the correspondence in open court.

The Judge said the author also asked the court not to make the orders, as they would not be able to afford a solicitor.

The author, the judge added, partly tried to justify the postings, described themself as being "a whistle-blower" and was concerned about being identified.

The author of the letter also said that the account the subject of the proceedings" had been deleted" and gave "a 100% assurance" they would not send any more communications to Portakabin's customers. 

Lawyers for Portakabin asked the court to make the orders, and told the court that it would not characterise the authors activities as whistle-blowing.

 If the author had genuine concerns about Portakabin, then they should have raised them with either the companies, or with various regulatory authorities. 

Instead, the author had sent emails which contain untrue, personalised, defamatory and negative allegations about matters including the quality of Portakabin's products and services, to important customers aimed at damaging Portakabin's business and reputation.

The plaintiffs want to pursue all remedies possible, including legal proceedings, against the person or persons, behind the emails, the court heard.

Mr Justice Allen said he would consider the application and would give his decision at a later date.

The Portakabin companies seek orders against Google Ireland Ltd directing the internet giant to disclose information and data it holds associated with the particular Gmail account that has been allegedly using a pseudonym 'John Smith'.

In what is known as a 'Norwich Pharmacal' order Portakabin secured an order requiring Google to provide information including the address, telephone number and or any other email address, of the holder of

Portakabin will also be given details about the payment instrument, including credit card details, used by the account holder, and the IP address and associated time stamps of the account.

Previously the court heard that Portakabin believes the emails formed part of a wider campaign dating back to October 2020, when anonymous letters were sent to is customers.

The companies believe that the author of the emails and the letters are the same person or persons.

Those letters also made false claims about the company, it is claimed.

Arising out of the contents of the letters Portakabin hired external consultants review its procurement and business practises.

The consultants found that that there was no evidence to sustain the claims made against them in the letters.

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