'No danger' of surge in class-action lawsuits in UK, says competition court judge

14 September 2017. By Simon Zekaria.

The UK won't see a surge in class-action lawsuits against antitrust breaches given the direction of recent rulings, a judge at the UK's specialized competition court said today.

The Competition Appeal Tribunal has issued two landmark judgments in recent months on applications to bring collective actions — one by pensioner Dorothy Gibson against mobility-scooter maker Pride Mobility and another brought by a dispute arbiter, Walter Merricks, against Mastercard.

In May, Gibson withdrew her action after the CAT requested more information to proceed with the claim. And in July, the court struck out Merricks' claim against the payment-card company because it didn't meet the criteria for class-action suits.

"There is no danger of the floodgates having being opened," CAT chairman Peter Freeman told a conference* in London.

But plaintiffs seeking to bring collective actions might be encouraged that they can be brought in the right circumstances. "There remain obstacles to collective actions, and they can be overcome," Freeman said.

He added that the CAT would remain a "careful gatekeeper" for collective lawsuits and for redress against competition breaches on behalf of consumers.

It has been possible to bring collective actions before the CAT since the Consumer Rights Act came into force in October 2015.

The rules allow an entity such as a trade association or consumer group to represent a class of people on an "opt-out" basis — meaning people are automatically part of the class.

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