The National Legislative Assembly has passed a bill amending the Civil Procedure Code to allow class action legal proceedings in Thailand. Class action lawsuits were not previously available in Thai proceedings, so this marks a notable development in the country’s court system. The Thai class action legislation contains basic similarities to class actions in jurisdictions such as the United States, albeit with significant differences in both substance and procedure.
The bill has received royal endorsement and will become effective in December 2015 (240 days after publication in the Royal Gazette dated April 8, 2015). The amended provisions provide for the following:
- Cases involving a group of persons who have the same interests and rights related to tort, breach of contract, and other laws including environment, consumer protection, labor, securities and stock exchange, and trade competition can petition to be filed as class actions by a plaintiff, which is a class member, together with the complaint.
- The Court has the power to allow, define the scope or characteristics of a class, inquire into, and terminate a class action.
- Class members may opt-out of the class action and pursue individual claims.
- A judgment binds all parties and members of the group. A plaintiff (or attorney) has the power to proceed with execution of the judgment on behalf of all members of the group.
- Defendants may be held liable for plaintiffs’ attorney fee awards not exceeding 30% of the judgment amount. Historically, the lawyers’ fees assessed by Thai courts have been very low. The new class action law attempts to increase judicial efficiency by aggregating a large number of individualized claims into one lawsuit where judgments will be binding on all class members. However, it also opens up opportunities to aggregate small claims that would otherwise not be cost effective to litigate.