The Consumer Rights Act 2015 and collective redress for competition law infringements in the UK: a class act?

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Abstract

This article is the first in-depth academic discussion of the key aspects of the enhanced collective redress mechanisms introduced recently in relation to competition law infringements in the UK by the Consumer Rights Act. The legislation is a particularly significant development because of the historical and contemporary focus on the ‘consumer’ at the heart of competition/antitrust law and because the reforms also reflect more recent debates generally in legal practice about ‘access to justice’. The article first recounts the pivotal role played by ‘class actions’ in US antitrust enforcement before outlining the recent debate on encouraging and facilitating private enforcement in the EU, particularly in relation to collective redress, culminating in the (anodyne) Commission Recommendation of June 2013. As the article notes, most of the collective redress mechanisms introduced across the EU Member States to date have been opt-in models, but these have been criticised for their limited impact and effectiveness, and an opt-out representative model has been introduced in some Member States and discussed in others.
The article will reflect on the limited provision in the UK on collective redress in relation to competition law infringements prior to the Consumer Rights Act, in particular the limitations in the opt-in follow-on procedure under s47B of the Competition Act 1998, as demonstrated by CA v JJB. The article will then focus on the Act’s provisions (and associated Tribunal rules) in relation to opt-in/opt-out collective proceedings and settlements (in both follow-on and stand-alone actions). The article will outline the new statutory provisions in sections 47B and 49A and B of the Competition Act 1998, for Collective Proceedings and Collective Settlements respectively. The Tribunal rules on certification will be considered, noting the potential difficulties in their practical application, before further analysis of two key problematic aspects of the proposed opt-out collective redress scheme, which may limit its effectiveness and uptake. The first concerns the appointment of the class/settlement representative and the second concerns the potential funding arrangements in relation to opt-out collective proceedings. The article questions whether the combination of these two aspects may dis-incentivise and unnecessarily limit the effectiveness of the new opt-out provisions, although it is accepted that this will also greatly depend on the Competition Appeal Tribunal interpretation and application of its new Tribunal Rules in relation to Collective proceedings, in particular regarding certification, appointment of the class/settlement representative and determination of the appropriate costs and expenses incurred in pursuing a collective claim.
LanguageEnglish
JournalJournal of Antitrust Enforcement
Early online date11 Aug 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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act
Law
certification
antitrust law
legal usage
EU member state
Class Act
appeal
EU
funding
justice
legislation
Proceedings
reform
interpretation
costs
Enforcement
Certification

Keywords

  • consumer rights
  • competition law
  • antitrust law

Cite this

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title = "The Consumer Rights Act 2015 and collective redress for competition law infringements in the UK: a class act?",
abstract = "This article is the first in-depth academic discussion of the key aspects of the enhanced collective redress mechanisms introduced recently in relation to competition law infringements in the UK by the Consumer Rights Act. The legislation is a particularly significant development because of the historical and contemporary focus on the ‘consumer’ at the heart of competition/antitrust law and because the reforms also reflect more recent debates generally in legal practice about ‘access to justice’. The article first recounts the pivotal role played by ‘class actions’ in US antitrust enforcement before outlining the recent debate on encouraging and facilitating private enforcement in the EU, particularly in relation to collective redress, culminating in the (anodyne) Commission Recommendation of June 2013. As the article notes, most of the collective redress mechanisms introduced across the EU Member States to date have been opt-in models, but these have been criticised for their limited impact and effectiveness, and an opt-out representative model has been introduced in some Member States and discussed in others.The article will reflect on the limited provision in the UK on collective redress in relation to competition law infringements prior to the Consumer Rights Act, in particular the limitations in the opt-in follow-on procedure under s47B of the Competition Act 1998, as demonstrated by CA v JJB. The article will then focus on the Act’s provisions (and associated Tribunal rules) in relation to opt-in/opt-out collective proceedings and settlements (in both follow-on and stand-alone actions). The article will outline the new statutory provisions in sections 47B and 49A and B of the Competition Act 1998, for Collective Proceedings and Collective Settlements respectively. The Tribunal rules on certification will be considered, noting the potential difficulties in their practical application, before further analysis of two key problematic aspects of the proposed opt-out collective redress scheme, which may limit its effectiveness and uptake. The first concerns the appointment of the class/settlement representative and the second concerns the potential funding arrangements in relation to opt-out collective proceedings. The article questions whether the combination of these two aspects may dis-incentivise and unnecessarily limit the effectiveness of the new opt-out provisions, although it is accepted that this will also greatly depend on the Competition Appeal Tribunal interpretation and application of its new Tribunal Rules in relation to Collective proceedings, in particular regarding certification, appointment of the class/settlement representative and determination of the appropriate costs and expenses incurred in pursuing a collective claim.",
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