Consumers from all countries, unite! This is somewhat the philosophy of the directive that the MEPs approved at the end of the year. This legislation indeed establishes the possibility of collective redress in all the Member States of the Union. The directive should be transcribed into national laws within two years of its publication in the Official newspaper European.
According to the European Bureau of Consumers’ Unions, nineteen EU countries now allow group action, but only six, including France since 2014, have a properly functioning system. However, the UFC-Que Choisir association believes that the directive will improve the French system.
In France, a group action has been launched by a consumer association which considers that bad professional practices have resulted in economic damage to multiple people. If justice recognizes that this is the case, it determines the amount of compensation. The association can then communicate, for example in the press, so that consumers who feel concerned can identify themselves.
“The device is quite rigid and limited, points out Raphaël Bartlomé, legal director of the UFC-Que Choisir. It only concerns cases related to personal data, the environment, health and consumer law. For each of these themes, it is complex to determine what is compensable or not. “
Raphaël Bartlomé takes the example of Portugal. “The procedures are more flexible and allow class actions to be launched on multiple subjects, he said. In addition, the Portuguese have chosen the “opt out” system. This means that even consumers who have not reported themselves as injured will be compensated if their name is found on the list of victims of bad business practices. For example in the files of the targeted company. “
If the UFC regrets that the Brussels vote does not generalize the Portuguese system, it welcomes the enlargement to multiple themes. “For example the air and rail sectors which escaped group action”, says Raphaël Bartlomé. Likewise, the lawyer welcomes the cross-border nature of class actions. “This will allow international cooperation between consumer associations and make it more difficult for companies to escape their obligations. “