CJC pushes for overhaul of UK class action system

Procedures governing group actions could be overhauled to improve access to justice, the Civil Justice Council (CJC) has told The Lawyer.

CJC chief executive Bob Musgrove said: “There’s overwhelming evidence of a need for reform of the laws and processes surrounding group actions.”

It comes after a CJC report into class actions recommended that the UK develop its own class action system rather than adopting the US model.

Members of the CJC will hold discussions on how a governance model that is intended to strike balances between the two systems could be introduced.

“This meeting will specifically look at whether the process around group actions can be reformed to improve access to justice while also protecting consumers from spurious litigation and satellite costs,” Musgrove said.

The CJC will mainly discuss whether the UK should move to an opt-out system for group litigation orders (GLOs).

Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll partner Anthony Maton, who worked on the successful transatlantic class action against British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic (www.the lawyer. com, 15 February), said an opt-out system should be implemented in every jurisdiction across the EU.

He said: “The opting-in system is notoriously difficult when you’re talking about small sums of money.”

Maton cited the firm’s failed attempt to bring an action against the supermarkets and dairies that were embroiled in a price-fixing scam (The Lawyer, 28 January).

However, reform could hit the stumbling blocks before discussions even get underway, with one well-placed source claiming that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is cautious about such moves.

“There’s some resistance, although ;it’s ;unclear what’s motivating this,” the source said. “Big corporate companies and insurers are against moves towards the opt-out system.”

Maton labelled the non-reformist lobby “bizarre”. He said businesses participating in the BA/Virgin claim stood to recover significant losses.

Meanwhile, Irwin Mitchell senior partner Michael Napier will step down from the CJC board this month after completing a 10-year term. Napier will be retained by the CJC as a mediator and facilitator, although he will not retain his membership.