Consumer Law & Group Litigation
We at Versus Law are committed to fighting for consumer rights whenever an injustice has occurred. As consumers, we expect and have a right that the service we receive should be as promised or product we buy should perform as advertised.
In recent years, there has been increased media coverage leading to a heightened awareness amongst consumers of the rights that they have in law. The PPI mis-selling scandal is probably the most well-known example of this, with banks and financial companies paying out over £20 billion in compensation to millions of customers who had been mis-sold PPI.
We are here to assist consumers to enforce these rights and seek justice against the unscrupulous actions of providers of services or goods. Whether you are an individual or a group, we are here to help you. Initially, you may feel that you are alone but once we are able to investigate your issue in more detail, it may become apparent that there are other individuals in the same situation as you.
A class action or group litigation was synonymous with large US law firms and you may have seen TV shows such as suits or LA law (if you are old enough) glamorising such cases. The litigation procedure in the UK is different to its US counterpart and group litigation is dealt with in part 19 of the civil procedure rules. In the US, there is a system of ‘opt out’ class actions where claimants are included in a claim automatically unless they opt out. In the UK, group litigation is dealt with on an ‘opt in’ basis. This means exactly what it says, in that every claimant must individually make their own claim. Unless each claimant is specifically included within the claim, they will not be entitled to participate in the litigation or be awarded any damages.
Part 19 of the civil procedure rules governs how a claim or claims forming the group litigation are managed, with specific rules applying. There are a number of advantages of a group litigation order over a normal multi-claimant action. Firstly, all of the claims relating to that issue must be commenced in the court that makes the group litigation order. This avoids multiple proceedings in different courts and ensures the outcome is consistent across all of the individual cases. There are also publication provisions, making it easier for potential claimants to join their claims into the action. Usually, there will be a cut-off date before which claims should be made. This also encourages potential claimants to join the action at the earliest date. It is therefore important to join a group action earlier rather than later.
Once a group litigation order is made and all of the individual claimants have been listed on a group register, the issues can be considered by the court. Any judgement on any issue will be binding on all other claims on the group register, unless the court considers that this should not happen. In order to decide certain issues, a lead or test case may be used.
As with many types of litigation, the usual costs rule is that the losing party pays. This is also the case with group litigation orders but again there are advantages in pursuing an action as a group. The individual costs liability is ring fenced, so that a claimant is not exposed to the total costs of the action, but rather will be liable for its individual costs and severally liable for an equal share of the common costs of pursuing the action. In most cases, we are able to offer a conditional fee agreement (or no win no fee agreement) for pursuing your case, meaning that you will not have to pay us at all if your case is lost. If your case is successful, we will be able to recover some or all of our legal fees from the defendant. Under this type of agreement, we commonly charge a success fee which will be paid from any damages recovered up to a certain percentage. We try to keep our funding arrangements as competitive as possible and believe this is extremely important because there should be complete transparency between us.
If the action does not succeed, then under a group litigation order a claimant is severally liable to pay an equal share of any adverse costs are awarded. In some group litigation orders, the court has considered and recognised that the various claimants involved have differing economic interests. For example some claimants may have a much smaller claim than other claimants in the same action. In those circumstances, a court may exercise its discretion so that each claimant’s contribution to common costs and their liability for adverse costs is commensurate to their claim size. It is also possible to obtain insurance to protect you from the possibility of paying adverse costs. We understand that this is an extremely important part of the decision-making process and are able to call upon our network of insurance providers to facilitate this so that for our clients, the risk is reduced.
Group litigation is still quite rare in England and Wales. Since 2012, only 14 cases have been commenced this way. We have a knowledgeable team who can assist claimants with this complex area. Additionally, we are able to work with other firms involved and collectively obtain the best possible result.
Our website details the current group litigation we are involved in. If you believe you are affected, please contact us using the form and we will assess your case.
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