This paper examines the background to the UK Government’s plans announced this year to introduce opt out class actions in competition cases, the EU Parliament’s opposition to them on autonomy grounds, and the arguments put forward by corporate lobby groups and the academics funded by them against opt out class actions.
The paper argues that far from being a restriction on autonomy, there are strong grounds for requiring mandatory class actions for the determination of common claims and defences. Procedures for determining common issues in the one proceeding are a crucial feature of any effective and proportionate system of collective redress. We sketch some ways of encouraging individual participation in class actions without undermining the benefits of collective action, including more democratic decision making in the management and settlement of class actions. Moreover, private class actions are a necessary complement to action by public regulators, ensuring that the task of securing redress for mass harms is not borne fully by taxpayers, and that victims can still obtain redress where regulation is not available or ineffective.