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HFHR Report: Class action suits after a year from their introduction

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has published the report ‘Class action suits after a year from their introduction’. ‘The institution of a class action suit is not a revolutionary change in the Polish law’, says Marek Niedużak, the author of the report. ‘Still, this is an important step towards a better access to justice’, he adds.

The Act, promulgated a little more than year ago, provides that the class action track is available only to claimants who sustained loss. However, under this law, a class action cannot be brought in cases concerning protection of personal interests. ‘This exclusion weakens the intent of the Act’, says Mr Niedużak.

Another issue related to the practice of class action suits are poorly developed regulations of consumer advocates.  According to the Act, the representative of a claimants’ group who is a member of this group or, in consumer cases, the local consumer advocate, may bring a class action.

‘Consumer advocates are employed by local government which covers expenses connected with class action suits. If the hearings are held in other city, the advocate who brought a class action suit often has problems with reimbursement of their travel allowances’, noted Małgorzata Rothert, the consumer advocate in Warsaw.

Furthermore, the report points out problems arising out of provisions governing the class action deposit. This was planned as a safeguard against frivolous class litigation. ‘The institution of deposit is likely to fail to attain its goals, themselves controversial’, says the report.

The author of the report, the Class Action Act poses new challenges for the courts, which are obliged, for instance, to review whether or not the representative’s activities are compliant with the interests of the remaining members of the claimants’ group.

The Report was prepared as part of the Monitoring of the legislative process in the area of justice system programme.

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