The UK’s first application for a class action will be heard this week (12 and 13 December) before the Competition Appeal Tribunal. Dot Gibson, the General Secretary of the National Pensioners Convention (NPC), launched the case in May 2016 against Pride Mobility Products Limited.
This week’s hearing will determine whether a collective proceedings order should be made authorising Ms Gibson to proceed with the class action. This is the first class action to be brought following the procedure being brought in by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 in October 2015.
Ms Gibson is seeking compensation for around 30,000 people who were allegedly overcharged for their Pride brand scooter between 2010 and 2012. If the claim succeeds, class members could be entitled to compensation of up to around £200 each.
The claim follows on from a 2014 decision of the Office of Fair Trading that Pride had breached competition law by banning retailers from advertising prices online below Pride’s recommended retail price (RRP).
Ms Gibson claims that this made it harder for potentially vulnerable consumers to shop around for the best price and led to them paying too much for their scooter.
Ms Gibson is seeking to bring this case for the class of consumers who bought a Pride brand mobility scooter between February 2010 and February 2012, from any retailer in the UK, whether online or in a shop.
Pride disputes that its conduct had any impact on the prices paid by consumers. If the class action proceeds, then that issue will be decided by the Tribunal.
The class action procedure was only introduced into UK law in October 2015. Class actions differ from the group actions by large groups of people that have to date been brought in the courts. Class actions may only be brought with the permission of the Competition Appeal Tribunal. They are brought by one representative whose duty is to act in the interests of a “class” of people as a whole.
If Ms Gibson is successful in her application for a collective proceedings order, she will represent all class members in the Tribunal proceedings, except for anyone who takes steps to opt-out or anyone living outside the UK.
Ms Gibson said: “I’m applying to act as class representative to stand up for all those who paid too much for their mobility scooter. Mobility scooters help people get out of the house and live decent independent lives. If people have been overcharged, then that is wrong and should be put right.”
Chris Haan, Ms Gibson’s solicitor from Leigh Day’s consumer law team, said: “This case is the first class action in UK legal history. The new regime has the potential to significantly improve consumer rights in the UK. If Ms Gibson is successful, around 30,000 consumers will automatically be eligible for compensation, without having to sign up with lawyers or bring their own cases.”
The National Pensioners Convention has set up a website for anyone wishing to learn more about the case, including potential class members: www.scooterclassaction.co.uk