A platform that builds group actions using techniques similar to crowdfunding is close to reaching the target for claimant numbers to launch its first case.
Venture capital-backed CaseHub , which uses social media and Facebook to sign up claimants for consumer actions around such issues as Ryanair’s passenger fees, letting agent fees, and private parking fines, takes a percentage if a case succeeds.
Cases involve litigation funders and law firms, with CaseHub’s participation limited to achieving claimant number targets.
CaseHub’s website uses the slogan “Fight bad guys online. Justice can be fun (sometimes)”. It describes itself as “a platform for groups of people to challenge unfair practices in the courts, without facing any risk”. It continues: “We partner with law firms to run class actions and lawsuits. Anyone who joins the case online gets a payout if it wins.”
The case against private parking company ParkingEye, which obtains car owners’ addresses from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) – also a subject of the action – has signed up 225 claimants out of a target of 250, according to the site. Each of them have received county court judgments after allegedly being unwittingly sued for unpaid parking penalties which CaseHub claims is due to DVLA address information being out of date.
CaseHub founder, Michael Green, a Cambridge law graduate in his early 20s, told Litigation Futures he had spent the past year putting together cases. The business won backing from venture capital firm Downing Ventures last August for an undisclosed amount. It also has “angel tech investors”, said Mr Green.
He explained: “We curate the cases ourselves, but are open to suggestions from the public.”
The model for the business up to now, he said, was to take the cases to litigation funders after seeking QCs’ opinions on the legal merits. The cases were handled by “medium-sized City firms”.
He stressed: “Obviously we are not Solicitors Regulation Authority-regulated and would not want to run the cases ourselves… There is no process for choosing a law firm: we have an informal panel.”
The litigation funders and solicitors arranged damages-based agreements or discounted conditional fee agreements, he said. “We just bring them the case. They look at the merits. Then we all work together.”
He went on: “We get all the litigation finance stuff sorted before we go build the class, because you only really have one shot at getting a claimant and what you can’t do is get someone’s interest, go to a litigation funder, get all that stuff sorted, and go back four months later and say ‘you were interested before, now sign up’.
“Consumers have way too short of an attention span, so all this stuff needs to be organised in advance so as far as the individual who wants to claim money back is concerned they can just join online and they never hear from us until the case wins or loses.”
He continued: “I think the real challenge in what we do is getting very large classes using mostly social media alone.
“In part that’s a combination of picking the right sort of problem where lots of people feel very angry against a particular institution, but in addition it’s also about finding cases where people have lost enough money. Obviously if they have lost £100 each, it’s easier to do than if they have lost £10 each.”
“One of the real difficulties is you have people who come forward and say they have paid something but they can’t prove it. If you have a blanket policy of saying ‘tough, sorry’, then you lose out on a large part of your claimant group.
“The legal risk is actually not too much of a problem, it’s more of a challenge on-boarding customers and satisfying the legal system’s demands for formal due diligence.”
A ParkingEye spokesman said: “While it is a motorist’s responsibility to keep their V5C registration certificate updated, where legal action is considered to be the appropriate next step we aim to ensure we use the most up-to-date information available.
“We rely upon registered keeper information from the DVLA and, in those cases where the registered keeper has not contacted us following the parking charge being issued, we engage the services of a credit reference agency.”