US-style group action lawsuits across the EU are no longer order of the day for the European Commission. Introducing into EU legislation new mechanisms to boost consumer rights had been under consideration. Such measures, as practised in the US, allow consumers with a common complaint against a company to pursue their claims in court, with the strength of greater numbers.
Following Brussels cooling off on the idea, Ursula Pachl of the European Consumers’ Organisation expressed disappointment.
Pachl said: “Consumers in Europe have been waiting for a very long time to finally get efficient means to enforce their rights, in case they have suffered damage fom anti-competitive behaviour from traders or from any unfair commercial practices. And there have been lots of consultations and there is a lot of evidence showing that there is a need for such legislation. And this is particularly sad because it is the Commissioner responsible for justice in the European Union, and she will not provide any access to justice for consumers.”
Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding told German media that American experts cautioned her about the potential impact of consumer group action where economic operators have to pay out large punitive damages.