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Representative Actions - Improving Access to Justice for Consumers


Irwin Mitchell has responded to the Department of Trade & Industry's consultation on the proposal of the Government to amend the law concerning representative actions for consumers.

A workable representative rule benefits consumers by enabling an action to be brought efficiently on behalf of all consumers (as a means of last resort) and benefits businesses by discouraging anti-competitive practices. The key is to achieve the right balance between providing access to justice for consumers and discouraging spurious or inappropriate claims against businesses.

Irwin Mitchell has considerable experience and expertise in group actions gained over the past 30 years. Recently, the firm has seen a shift away from group actions following the removal of public funding for such actions. However, with new funding options emerging, redress for consumers could become a real possibility and will also mean businesses will not be left exposed to costs incurred against impecunious claimants.

As set out in the response, Irwin Mitchell do not advocate wide scale reform to achieve a suitably balanced system, but instead suggest modest changes to procedural and case management tools already available to the courts in England and Wales. It is reassuring to note that a similar approach appears to have been taken by the Office of Fair Trading in its response to the DTI's consultation.