The UK government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has concluded a public consultation aimed at strengthening private antitrust enforcement in the UK. Between  April 24, 2012, and July 24, 2012, BIS sought contributions from organizations and individuals as to how private damages actions might be encouraged. In particular, BIS sought views on how the current collective actions regime could be strengthened.

At present, collective damages actions in the UK can be brought only on an opt-in basis, i.e., each individual must actively elect to join the class of claimants. BIS asked respondents to consider whether an opt-out system should be introduced. Other issues raised in the consultation paper included whether the jurisdiction of the UK’s specialist antitrust forum, the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT), should be extended, and whether a fast-track system should be introduced to enable the swift handling of antitrust claims brought by small and medium enterprises.

The Government will publish its response in the near future, following an analysis of comments received.  At a minimum, the Government is expected to introduce legislation expanding the CAT’s mandate (currently limited to hearing damages actions following infringement decisions issued by the European Commission or UK competition authorities) to include claims brought without any underlying infringement decision (known as “stand-alone claims”).