This article provides an analysis of the Directive on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers of 25 November 2020. The Directive enables qualified entities to bring representative actions on behalf of the consumer. The article uses a Law and Economics approach to stress the advantages of collective actions as a tool to remedy rational apathy and free-rider behaviour. The article therefore in principle welcomes the fact that this Directive will lead to all Member States having some form of collective redress. However, it is rather difficult to fit this Directive into the economic criteria for centralization as there is no obvious danger of cross-border externalities or a race-to-the-bottom. The article is critical of the fact that the Directive only provides for a representative action and does not mention the alternative of a group action (sometimes referred to as a class action). This is especially problematic if there are very few qualified entities that could bring the representative action. Furthermore, the fact that Member States may choose an opt-in procedure instead of an opt-out procedure is critically evaluated. The most problematic aspect of the Directive is the funding of the representative action. Punitive damages and contingency fees are rejected, and the possibility of third-party funding is restricted. It is therefore to be feared that this Directive, notwithstanding the good intentions, may not lead to much application in practice, since the question of how the representative action is to be financed is not resolved in any satisfactory manner.
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- SAI 2008-06 BACT