More groups allowed to bring class actions, govt told

More groups allowed to bring class actions, govt toldProposals to allow more representative bodies to bring class actions on an opt-out basis have been put forward to the government today.

The Civil Justice Council (CJC), the body responsible for advising the Lord Chancellor on the modernisation of the law, called for reform of the group litigation model to remove barriers to access to justice.

On Monday the European Commission (EC) published its own green paper on class actions, which included proposals for a Europe-wide GLO model.

Presenting the paper EC commissioner for consumers, Meglena Kuneva said: “Studies carried out by the Commission indicate that when consumers are affected by a malpractice and want to pursue a case, they face substantial barriers in terms of access, effectiveness and affordability.”

The CJC plans to expand the number of bodies with statutory power to bring class actions. Currently only consumer body Which? has the right to bring class actions against companies that were found to have breached UK competition law.

Launching the paper, CJC chief executive Robert Musgrove said: “Developing a procedure that will allow… legitimate bodies to represent identified classes of consumers should bring benefits not only to the consumers themselves but also have a much wider beneficial effect on the market economy.

The CJC also recommended extending judicial powers over such actions to protect defendants from satellite litigation.

Musgrove said: “It is important that no case should proceed unless the responsible judge ascertains there is clear merit, and a reasonable expectation that the claimant will recover a substantial element of their loss.

“Funding arrangements will be tested, rigorous case management applied, and there will be judicial authority over any class settlement.”

The CJC has now submitted its recommendations to the Lord Chancellor Jack Straw as formal advice.