Collective Redress Proposals for Europe: Seeking a Solution to a Non-Existent Problem?

Luke Tolaini, Samantha Ward, Apr 29, 2011

The European Commission’s public consultation on collective redress is the latest in a series of attempts at legislating for class action-style relief in Europe for breaches of EU law. It follows proposals in 2005 and 2008 by the Competition Directorate General (“DG COMP”) and the Health and Consumer Policy Directorate General (“DG SANCO”), but it is not clear how the new consultation fits with those earlier proposals. In one sense, it appears to be taking a step backwards, asking for views on whether such a regime is necessary at all, before seeking opinions on how it should work.

Neither DG COMP nor DG SANCO addressed the basis on which the EU could legislate in this area at all. The new consultation is similarly silent on this issue, and provides no evidence that legislation at EU level is necessary, or that it would achieve the objectives of the Treaties.

This article examines the history of the Commission’s attempts to put in place a collective redress framework for breaches of EU law and looks at what regimes currently exist in Member States for collective redress. It also considers the concerns of defendants that the perceived disadvantages of U.S. class actions will make their way into Europe through any new legislation.