The European Commission today launched a public consultation to achieve a coherent approach towards collective redress for breach of EU law. The results could affect all sectors including the financial and environmental sectors, and anyone dealing with competition law or consumer claims.

The consultation will consider how redress should be obtained by large groups of claimants (private or commercial) when individual lawsuits would be ineffective or inefficient. The consultation is open until 30 April 2011.

Redress is currently available in these cases either by injunction (including interim) relief to stop illegal practices or through compensation. However, there are no common principles across Europe: member states differ as to who can bring a claim, what funding is available for claimants and the effect of a judgment on the members of the group. The purpose of the consultation is to identify common legal principles and examine how such common principles could fit into the EU legal system and into the legal orders of member states. The consultation will also explore in which fields the different forms of collective redress could have an added value for improving the enforcement of EU legislation or for better protecting rights.

There are three main areas:

  1. establishing the potential added value of collective redress for improving the enforcement of EU law;
  2. identifying general principles to guide possible future EU initiatives on collective redress such as use of alternative dispute resolution methods, strong safeguards against abusive litigation and mechanisms for financing collective redress; and
  3. the right coherent European approach - should it cover just competition, protection of consumers etc or extend to others areas such as environmental or financial services?

Interested parties have until 30 April 2011 to submit their response to the consultation. Should you wish to do so, this can be done electronically to, or in writing to, European Commission, "Consultation on collective redress", Avenue de Bourget 1-3, B-1140 Brussels (Evere), Belgium.

We are analysing the consultation and will be responding to the Commission and to clients. We should be delighted to hear your views on the consultation.