UK should eschew US class action model, says CJC

Procedures governing group actions by UK consumers need to be reformed but should not resemble US class actions, research commissioned by the Civil Justice Council (CJC) has found.

Master of the rolls Sir Anthony Clarke said the research made an important contribution to the debate on what have been loosely termed class actions in the UK.

“As the report makes plain, it is clearly not desirable to import a US-style class action system, nor would it be practical to do so,” said Clarke. “However, it is right to consider whether civil procedure can or should be improved while ensuring proper protection against unmeritorious claims.”

The CJC will now consider the matters that arose from the research and will provide advice to the Government. The 170-page report analysed consumer claims in common law jurisdictions and in Europe and recommended 19 “building blocks” for improvement.

One major issue discussed in the paper is the opt-in nature of group litigation orders (GLO). According to the report around 30 per cent of those who suffered loss decide to opt in for GLOs. That said, there have been a total of 62 actions brought since 2000, the year GLOs were introduced.

Law firms that used GLOs said that opt-in did not always suit the action as it can be difficult to identify all group members from the outset.

Under US-style class actions, people have to opt-out if they do not what to be part of proceedings. The study suggests that following the US model to this extent may not be required.