Companies that break the law could find themselves facing more lawsuits from the great British public, as over 70 per cent said they would join a class action – many even against their own employer – according to a new study published today.
The study, which polled members of the public on their perceptions of class actions in the UK, found that most people were willing to take legal action against companies, with 73 per cent adding that they would boycott a company for breaking the law if it also affected them. Even if it didn’t affect them, more than half said they would still take part in a boycott.
Although the study, by UK polling council Portland, noted that there was “low” awareness and understanding of class actions among the general public, the findings come as a clear warning to businesses to steer on the right side of the law, and consumers.
In particular companies found to have acted illegally risk significant damage to their reputation and the loss of staff as a third of Brits said they would write to their MP or raise the issue publicly on social media while 62 per cent said they would even consider quitting their jobs at, or never working for, the company.
Finance, energy and healthcare were among the industries the general public would most likely support a class action against.
Richard Leedham, partner at city law firm Mishcon de Reya commented on the findings: “Claimants are increasingly seeking ways to call large companies to account, not necessarily for their own financial gain, and often cannot do so on their own or in small groups.”
“As funders realise the potential of ESG claims and consider the benefits of being involved, the costs associated with such claims
will continue to come down. This in turn may allow more claims to proceed,” he warned.
“For companies who feel they are too big to listen, this could be a virtuous circle that they would do well to pay heed to,” he added.
The findings of the annual report on class actions come one month after the UK’s Supreme Court voted down a £3bn lawsuit which would have seen 4.4m Brits compensated for data breaches by tech giant Google.
Lloyd was seeking £750 in damages for each member of the represented class under the 1998 data protection act on the basis that Google’s tracking caused them financial damage and mental distress.
But the judge rejected the mass lawsuit because Lloyd failed to supply evidence of the impact data privacy breaches had on individual claimants.
Despite the judgement, the high level of media coverage around the case and others seems to increased the British public’s appetite for class actions, according to the report.
Class actions carry significant reputational and commercial challenges for defendants,” said Philip Hall, Senior Partner and Global Head of Disputes at Portland.
“Beyond the damages,” he continued, “businesses, organisations and institutions could face a backlash from their customers or employees if they are perceived to have acted illegally.”