Class Actions Against Infringements of EU Competition Law: A One-Way Road Towards Effective Private Enforcement?

This article is part of a Chronicle. See more from this Chronicle

Lia Vitzilaiou, George Zohios, Feb 25, 2015

Class actions are a controversial issue, since they have attracted both criticism and praise. It is fair to say that so far there is no consensus among academics or practitioners about the virtue or vice of class actions, as there are plausible arguments for both.

The U.S. jurisdiction has probably contributed more than most in the development of class actions and the emergence of the relevant debate. On the contrary, the European Union appears more hesitant and reluctant to adopt class actions at a Community level, while at a national level, there is much diversity among Member States about the mechanisms of collective redress and the adoption of class actions per se.

With the issuance of the EU Directive on Damages for competition law infringements last November, and the upcoming entry into force of the Commission Recommendation on Collective Redress this July, the issue of class actions has come once again to the fore, especially with regard to competition law infringements. Whether or not class actions can be the most effective instrument for antitrust damages at an EU level is a question that has concerned lawmakers for a long time and which so far has been responded rather to the negative. However, there is still margin for revisiting this position, especially after the evaluation of the collective redress mechanisms recommended by the EU Commission, which is expected to take place in 2017.

This article examines class actions as a form of collective redress from a competition law viewpoint; inevitably, however, many of the remarks concern class actions and collective redress mechanisms in general. First, the nature of class actions and their difference from other forms of group litigation are briefly presented; then, the main advantages and disadvantages of class actions are discussed; third, the position of the EU Directive on Antitrust Damages vis-à-vis class actions and that of the Commission Recommendation on Collective Redress are summarized; and, finally, class actions and other forms of collective redress are examined with regard to Greek competition and consumer protection law.