The Development of the Class Action in the United Kingdom

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Michael Dean, Feb 25, 2015

Class actions are not part of the U.K. legal landscape, at least not yet. In fact, commentary around the current passage of the Consumer Rights Bill through the U.K. Parliament has highlighted that class actions are viewed as something of a legal bogeyman. Concern has been expressed that the United Kingdom should avoid the introduction of a system of punitive damages combined with damages-based fee agreements and the wealthy/rapacious bar that would inevitably develop! Perish the thought!

On the other hand, effective consumer redress is on the legislative agenda at both the U.K. and European levels. It has been recognized that many meritorious claims are currently not being pursued and the Civil Justice Council (which oversees the modernization of the civil justice system) has recommended that the U.K. Government should facilitate new avenues for multi-party litigation. Consumers and small- and medium-sized businesses (“SMEs”) are least likely to have the resources required to bring an individual action and therefore may find the possibility of participating a scheme for collective redress most appealing. Therefore, the United Kingdom is taking a sectional rather than across-the-board approach to introducing the class or collective action, as and where need is demonstrated.

Private damages for breach of competition law will be in the vanguard introducing a wider mass consum…

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