Just before the Christmas break, the Civil Justice Council (CJC) submitted final recommendations to the UK government about collective redress (also known as ‘class actions’) to improve access to justice for consumers and small businesses in England and Wales. The CJC is an advisory group to the minister of justice with responsibility for overseeing and co-ordinating the modernisation of the civil justice system and its reports are influential.
The report calls for the reform of existing collective redress mechanisms to provide improved access to justice for consumers and small businesses bringing collective claims for compensation. The recommendations made by the CJC include:
- introducing a generic collective action, with piloting by sector-specific reform (eg in the competition law area);
- increasing the types of representative bodies that are able to bring claims;
- making the judiciary the gatekeeper of the procedure – allowing cases to proceed only if there is clear merit;
- permitting claims to be brought on an opt-out basis if it is in the best interests of justice;
- changing the law to permit the award of aggregate damages; and
- requiring settlements to be approved by the court in a ‘fairness hearing’.
A response is expected in spring 2009. For further information about the CJC’s report please see our December 2008 client briefing, The reform of collective redress in England and Wales, available on our website at www.freshfields.com/publications/pdfs/2008/dec08/ 24906.pdf.