Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Complaints Champion Fights for Your Rights

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Complaints Champion Fights for Your Rights

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES WALKER

THE arrival of new Consumer Rights Act this week opens up possibility of small groups or even individuals suing on behalf of large groups.

The US - home of litigation culture - has long been a place where companies have to beware the class action lawsuit. This is where small groups of people can bring an action for compensation or damages against a company and, if they win, the whole group of people affected is awarded damages.

It can bring companies to their knees, but it can also provide even-handed blanket justice in one fell swoop when a whole group of consumers have been wronged in some way (maybe by a faulty product or widespread price fixing).

Now, the new Consumer Rights Act 2015, introduced from the beginning of October, contains provision for whole groups or 'classes' to be automatically included in a suit.

WHY CLASS ACTION SHOULD BE GOOD NEWS CONSUMER groups say it is a huge step forward in helping secure compensation.

Fixing the prices |Until now, those who sought to sue companies they felt were fixing the prices of goods or services unfairly were required to 'opt in' to an action or raise their own individual claim. This was a high-risk and complex business, so very few people were keen to take this route for legal recourse.

Now, price-fixing firms or industries can far more easily face the wrath of individuals or small businesses.

If you're part of a suit, you have to actively 'opt out'. This means strength in numbers for claimants and a much higher chance of getting some for m of redress.

WHAT'S THE DOWNSIDE? Checks against chancers |Some have wondered if this change to the law will open the gateway for opportunists looking for huge windfalls.

This is unlikely, however, as there are checks in place to stop it. For example, the convention that the loser of a case must generally pay the winner's costs should prevent OTT claims.

Plus, unlike in the US, damages will be measured as compensation - no judge will be able to award large sums in damages as an example to deter others from poor behaviour. …

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