Collective redress must be available for European victims of corporate harm

In April this year, the European Commission published a proposal for a new directive on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers. Prepared in the wake of the ‘dieselgate’ scandal, the proposal would allow consumers to bring a collective action where they are harmed because a company violates EU law.

However the Commission’s proposal fails to encompass all cases of harm actually affecting Europeans, specifically in regards to environmental harm.

The fact that collective redress should be available beyond the consumer context has also been highlighted by a study requested by the committee for legal affairs (JURI) of the European Parliament, published earlier this month.

As the committee is now debating the proposal, ClientEarth is urging MEPs to follow the recommendations of the study and expand its scope– see our joint position paper with the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ) here.

In the meantime industry lobbyists have run an aggressive scare campaign, driving the focus of the debate from improving the proposal so that it can work better for people and the environment, to how to protect industries breaking the law.

In response ClientEarth and ECCJ have produced a seven-point paper responding to misleading industry claims. In this document, we show that far from leading to litigation abuse, the proposal actually appears to be the most restrictive of all EU collective redress mechanisms in existence.

Nonetheless, the draft report published by European People’s Party Rapporteur Geoffroy Didier appears more concerned with protecting industry violating the law, rather than strengthening organisations representing victims of corporate harm.

ClientEarth and ECCJ have therefore prepared a reaction paper to urge MEPs to reject the most problematic of the Rapporteur’s amendments.

In recent years, Europe has seen illegal industry action resulting in emission limits being cheated, chemical waste spills and toxic ash storms. It is time for Europeans to have the right to act collectively if they are the victim of such abuses.

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Jacek Dylag

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