European Union to Review Group Lawsuits for Antitrust, Consumer Complaints

The European Union will consider plans to allow group lawsuits for antitrust violations and consumer complaints, while stopping short of endorsing U.S.- style class-action complaints.

Combining individual lawsuits into a group or “collective redress” claim would save legal costs and speed up the judicial process, three EU commissioners said in a document obtained by Bloomberg News.

The EU must avoid “the risk of abusive litigation” that is built into U.S. law, according to the document to be presented by Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, Antitrust Commissioner Joaquin Almunia and Consumer Commissioner John Dalli at a meeting next week. “Such abuses have occurred in the U.S.” because there are “strong economic incentives for parties to bring a case to court.”

Neelie Kroes, Almunia’s predecessor as competition commissioner, championed group lawsuits as a way to compensate victims of illegal monopolies and cartels. Such lawsuits, in addition to fines that can reach millions of euros, might help victims recover losses and deter antitrust violations, she argued.

The latest EU proposals could expand on Kroes’s plans, allowing consumers to possibly seek damages for wider “illegal business practices.” The document will be the basis of discussions next week on whether to start a formal consultation to draft legislation on the issue.

Frederic Vincent, a spokesman for Dalli, said the issue would be discussed at an Oct. 12 commission meeting. Amelia Torres, Almunia’s spokeswoman, declined to comment. Matthew Newman, a spokesman for Reding, didn’t immediately answer a call seeking comment.

Consumer groups last month called for the EU to press ahead with work on civil lawsuits that could allow customers seek damages for antitrust violations.

The EU imposed 1.6 billion euros ($2.2 billion) in cartel fines last year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.

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