A proposed class action has been filed a mere six weeks after the BC government introduced amendments to the Property Transfer Tax Act to impose an additional 15% tax on the purchase of residential properties by foreign entities in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (the “Foreign Buyer Property Tax”). This legislation, and the issue of foreign buyers in Vancouver, has received significant news coverage in the local and national media. This case is a prime example of a company/entity being at a high risk of being a class action target where it has received significant publicity/news coverage.

On September 19, 2016, the plaintiff, Jing Li, filed a proposed class action against the BC government on behalf of foreign entities who are nationals of treaty countries, who purchased residential property in the Greater Vancouver Regional District, and who paid or will pay the Foreign Buyer Property Tax. The plaintiff also proposes subclasses comprising foreign entities who paid the tax and who are nationals of other countries listed.

The plaintiff is a citizen of the People’s Republic of China. She entered into a contract to purchase property in Langley, British Columbia for $559,000. She claims that she is now obligated to pay an additional $83,850 in tax pursuant to Foreign Buyer Property Tax.

The plaintiff alleges that the Foreign Buyer Property Tax is unconstitutional, that it violates multiple international tax treaties, and that the BC government has been unjustly enriched by the receipt of the Foreign Buyer Property Tax. The plaintiff seeks an order of restitution of all amounts collected by the BC government on account of the tax.

This case is a cautionary tale for companies/governments that may be at risk of being a class action target if they have received significant publicity/news coverage.

  • If a business is receiving positive media attention, for example, for recent successes, innovation, being a leader in the industry, or a change to a business approach or model, plaintiff-side class action lawyers may seek creative ways to target the business in a class action related to those successes; or
  • If a business is receiving negative media attention, for example in the event of a product recall or recent failure, it is more likely to become a target for a class action.