The year in review
In the early years following the entry into force of the class action rules, there was some uncertainty whether class action would play any significant role in Norway. Furthermore, for some cases that were brought as class actions in this early phase, there seemed to have been no point in applying the class actions rules (e.g., the number of claimants was very small and all the (potential) claimants were known at the time the class action was instigated).
The development during the past years seems, however, to imply that the legal environment has matured. In some more recent cases, the courts have also taken a somewhat more sceptical approach to the class action institute and emphasised that class action should be reserved for typical class action situation and not cases where there may be a simple joinder of cases. At the same time, a number of class actions have been brought, or discussed, in cases where there may be a real benefit from applying the class action rules (see below).
In 2013, three unions brought a class action against several oil and offshore companies alleging that a certain night-time tariff that was paid to employees should also be included in the basis for the employee's pensions arrangements. The class action was approved as an opt-out action and had approximately 7,000 members. The class did not succeed in its action.
In 2016, the Home Owners Association instigated a class against the municipality of Oslo alleging that property tax, which was introduced following the municipal election in 2015, is invalid, and that illegally recovered property taxes should be repaid. Approximately 2,000 citizens in Oslo have so far joined the class actions, which is handled as an opt-in class action. The case was heard before the district court in April 2017, and the decision was handed down 21 November 2017. The group was unsuccessful, and the District Court found that the property tax was lawful. The case was heard before the Court of Appeal in 2018, and the Court of Appeal handed down its decision 31 October 2018. The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the group and found that the property tax was unlawful. The Supreme Court has granted leave to appeal and the case will be heard in May 2019.
In 2016, the Norwegian Consumer Council instigated a class action against DNB, the largest Norwegian bank alleging that some 180,000 customers have lost a total of approximately 700 million kroner by paying excessive fees for management of their savings. The average claim per customer is somewhat below 4,000 kroner. The class action was brought as an opt-out action. The action was approved as a class action by the District Court in January 2017, but DNB appealed the case to the Court of Appeal and argued that the action should not be approved as a class action. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal from DNB and found that the requirements for an opt-out action were met. DNB further appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which dismissed the appeal. The main hearing in the case was held in late November and early December 2017. In January 2018, the District Court handed down its decision where DNB was acquitted. The Consumer Council has appealed the case to the Court of Appeal.
In 2016, a class action was brought against a private school on the basis that its tuition fees were too high. The action was approved as a class action in January 2017, with close to 500 members (former students with the school). In September 2017, the District Court handed down its decision and ordered the school to repay an amount to the members of the class action. The case has not been appealed.
In 2016–2017, there was a debate about whether to instigate another class action against the municipality of Oslo claiming repayment of refuse collection charges. Almost all households in Oslo have experienced garbage not being collected after the company running the refuse collection on behalf of the municipality of Oslo had severe problems. A claim for repayment of refuse collection charges would probably not constitute any large amount for the individual household (around 100 kroner each), but multiplied by the number of households (over 300,000) the total claim may be significant. So far, however, no class action has been brought.