Opt-Out Antitrust Class Actions—A U.S. Perspective On The Consumer Rights Bill Pending In UK’s Parliament

Will opt-out class actions proposed by the UK Parliament’s Consumer Rights Bill bring the dreaded U.S.-style litigation culture to the United Kingdom? My personal assessment—that of a seasoned American antitrust practitioner—is that it’s doubtful.

But first, some background. Opt-out class actions are a form of what are known as collective actions or collective proceedings. Such actions are currently permitted in UK and European courts only on an opt-in basis—essentially a form of voluntary joinder—but then only in private claims for redress in the high court that follow on a prior public agency decision of wrongdoing under the competition laws of the UK or EU. Private antitrust actions in the UK are quite rare; only 27 such cases resulted in judgment in the 2005-2008 period. Only one collective action for damages has been brought on behalf of consumers.

The bill before the UK Parliament—denominated the Consumer Rights Bill—is an extensive consumer bill of rights. As it relates to competition law, it is designed to make collective actions an important component of antitrust enforcement in UK courts....

Originally published in Antitrust & Trade Regulation Report, 106 ATRR 834, 06/13/2014.

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