The EU Member States were required to transpose directive (EU) 2020/1828 on "representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers" ("representative actions directive") by the end of 2022. Austria - like some other member states - has not yet fulfilled this obligation.

Objective of the representative actions directive

The representative actions directive entered into force on 24 December 2020 and should have been transposed into national law by 25 December 2022; from 25 June 2023 the new rules must be applied. However, at present there is no draft law yet in Austria.

The objective of the representative actions directive is a fundamental reform of collective legal protection at European level: Recognised consumer protection organisations are authorized to assert the claims of (all) affected consumers in an action on their behalf in the case of infringements by companies that harm a large number of consumers. It covers violations of consumer protection regulations in numerous areas of law, including consumer protection law, data protection, financial services, travel and tourism, energy and telecommunications. If the representative action is successful, consumers shall receive their remedies (e.g. damages) directly from the company without having to bring separate proceedings. In addition, consumer protection organisations can also bring actions for injunctive measures.

Transposition of the directive leads to comprehensive system change

The transposition of the representative actions directive will lead to a comprehensive change in the system of collective enforcement of consumer law in Austria. So far, there has only been the possibility of a national representative action under the Consumer Protection Act. The associations authorized by the Consumer Protection Act (e.g. Chamber of Labour, VKI) can seek an injunction against provisions in standard contracts and terms of business which contravene a statutory prohibition or which are contrary to public policy; such ban also includes a prohibition to invoke any such provision to the extent it was inadmissibly agreed. These associations may also seek an injunction against unlawful business practices. In addition, the so-called "Austrian-style class action" has developed in case law; in such a case, consumers assign their claims to associations which assert the assigned claims bundled in their own name, but on behalf of the individual consumers. The representative actions directive, on the other hand, provides that qualified entities can bring representative actions against businesses that infringe national or European law, with the main objective of obtaining injunctive measures and redress measures in form of damages, repair, replacement, price reduction, termination of the contract or reimbursement of the price paid.

Participation in a representative action: "opt-in" or "opt-out"

The representative actions directive leaves it up to the Member States to decide how to organise the participation of consumers in representative actions. Member States may provide for either an "opt-in" or an "opt-out" mechanism (or a combination of both). Under the opt-in mechanism, consumers must actively consent to be joined as part of the class, whereas under the opt-out mechanism all consumers who share the common interest are bound by the outcome of the representative proceedings unless they elect to exclude themselves.

Definition of "Qualified Entities"

The representative actions directive only authorizes "qualified entities" to bring representative actions. According to the directive, a qualified entity is "any organisation or public body representing consumers’ interests which has been designated by a Member State as qualified to bring representative actions in accordance with this Directive". The Member States have room for discretion in defining qualified entities; it is therefore currently open which entities in Austria will be authorized to bring collective actions.

Special procedural features: Disclosure of evidence

The representative actions directive also contains special features for the evidence proceeding similar to the Anglo-American "discovery proceeding" and which involve a paradigm shift for Austrian civil procedural law: Companies as defendants may be obligated by the court to disclose evidence in their possession or in the possession of a third party.


The transposition of the representative actions directive will revolutionise the system of collective legal protection in Austria. Companies will be confronted with a new type of means for collective law enforcement and the obligation to disclose evidence. The consequences are yet to be seen but will mainly depend on which organisations the legislator will authorize to bring class actions and the details of the national transposition.