UK collective action regime driven by 'access to justice,' UK judge says

23 September 2022 10:34 by Simon Zekaria

Competition Appeal Tribunal

The UK's fast-developing collective action regime that pursues damages for businesses and consumers over alleged competition-law infringements is driven by "access to justice," a judge from the UK's specialized competition court said today.

Paul Lomas of the Competition Appeal Tribunal told a conference* that the Competition Appeal Tribunal, whose function includes assessing claims for their suitability, is now witness to an established "flow and profile" of cases as the regime beds in.

Following certification of a landmark claim brought against Mastercard over card fees, a queue of other class representatives have also filed cases at the CAT, including against train operators, BT and tech giants like Apple and Qualcomm. A recent application has targeted Sony over its PlayStation console charges paid by consumers.

Lomas said that access to justice is a "very strong overriding driver" for the regime, flowing from the regime's state policy roots in changes to consumer laws in 2015 to secure reparation for large classes. "There is a clear emphasis not only on compensation but on deterrence," he said.

There is "strong support" for the certification process as a whole and "pushing" decisions on the substance of claims "down the road" to trial, said Lomas, noting that no class representative has seen an action refused "outright" by the CAT on the grounds of the "quality" of their applications.

While there was a "slow take-up" of the regime, there is now a "rapid acceleration" of it, said Lomas, noting that the cases are brought by "highly qualified teams" of professionals. "A sophistication has developed," he said, with cases backed by "funding at a high level."

There have been 22 collective proceedings actions made to date, and the stream of cases has been "increasing quite rapidly," said Lomas, including lawsuits that are follow-on actions from EU infringement decisions and those that are standalone claims not linked to regulatory actions.

*Competition Litigation Conference, MLex, Brick Court and Freshfields, London, Sept. 23, 2022.

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