Is a Class Action System for Consumers Desirable in Europe?

Date01 January 2010
AuthorBarry O'Sullivan
Is a Class Action System for Consumers
Desirable in Europe?
This article purports to examine the viability of a harmonised system of
collective redress throughout Europe, insofar as it would be implemented
as EU law. In doing so, it will examine the potential proposals put forward
of late by the European Commission in its Green Paper,1and also the recent
Consultation Paper drafted in response to the Green Paper.2Each of the
four options put forward by the Green Paper will be discussed and critically
analysed, and the preferred approach of this author will be indicated.
In justifying this preference, the approaches taken and results experienced
in other non-European jurisdictions will be examined, and analysis will be
offered. In discussing how to implement a collective redress system in the
EU, it is most beneficial to examine the US class action system, given that
it is the original form of collective litigation. Thus, it can serve as a useful
guideline for the EU, insofar as any problems arising in the US could, by
example, be avoided by the EU legislature. The approaches taken in Canada
and Australia will also be examined to ascertain whether provisions are in
place there that merit inclusion in an EU system.
Then, national collective redress systems already adopted by individual
EU Member States will be examined. There will be a particular focus on the
existing Irish system and, to a lesser extent, that of the UK, in order to
identify what changes are needed. In addition, the approaches of the various
civil law continental systems will also be identified and examined, with a
view to including them as part of, what I propose to be, an ideal system.
By way of conclusion, this ideal system will be proposed, taking into
account the Green Paper’s proposals and the benefits of approaches taken
in other non-EU jurisdictions, as well as any useful provisions already
implemented by Member States individually.
There has been much discussion of late as to whether some system of
collective litigation should be implemented in European law, especially in
1Green Paper on Consumer Coll ective Redress, published 27 November 2008,
http://ec.europ greenpaper_en.pdf, accessed on 17
December 2009 [hereinafter Green Paper].
2Consultation Paper for discussion on the follow up to the Green Paper on Collective
Consumer Redress, published 29 May, 2009,
cons/docs/consultation_paper2009.pdf, accessed on 17 December 2009 [hereinafter
Consultation Paper].
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