On 26 March 2015 the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) received Royal Assent. Among a slew of other reforms, the CRA represents an evolution of competition law in England and Wales with the introduction of a new regime for private actions and another for class actions, to be known in England as collective actions.
The key reforms are as follows:
• The UK Government has committed itself to reforming the competition litigation landscape to make it easier for businesses and individuals to claim compensation against anti-competitive behaviour.
• The CRA’s provisions are likely to make the UK the most favoured jurisdiction for bringing competition law claims in Europe.
• The CRA proposes to create a new “opt-out” collective action for competition law claims on behalf of both consumers and businesses. Proceedings can be brought before the UK specialist competition court, the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT). Under detailed certification rules yet to be published, the CAT will need to decide whether an action should proceed on an opt-in or an opt-out basis.
• In an opt-in action, claimants need to opt in if they wish to become a member of the class. In an opt-out action, the claim is brought by a representative on behalf of a defined class without the need to identify each individual class members. Those class members can be consumers or businesses which have suffered loss and damage by reason of breach of competition law occasioned by the defendants.
• All those falling within the opt-out class will be bound by the judgement in the case unless they opt-out. The opt-out class action procedure is open to UK domiciled claimants although individuals and companies domiciled outside the UK can apply to opt-in to the class.
• The CRA also introduces a new opt-out collective settlement regime. This based on the Dutch mass settlements regime. Under this procedure, parties will be allowed seek the CAT’s endorsement of an agreed settlement on an opt-out basis without the need for the parties to actually commence an action.
• The CRA introduces a fast track procedure for some claims at the CAT. Under this procedure, some claimants may also be granted an interim injunction to stop harmful behaviour immediately before going through the trial process.
The CRA is expected to enter into force on 1 October 2015.