Group action practice PGMBM has become what is thought to be the first law firm in the UK to advertise on TV for claimants to join specific cases.
It says that, as a result of recent advertising, its claim against British Airways over its 2018 customer data breach has become the largest group personal data claim in UK history, as it has notched up over 16,000 clients.
PGMBM began last year by advertising for Mercedes-Benz drivers who may have claims over the car manufacturer allegedly fitting illegal emission defeat devices to diesel cars and vans.
Managing partner Tom Goodhead said running hundreds of adverts across a wide range of channels and programmes, from Good Morning Britain to Premier League football, meant “we should reach most UK adults”.
While the impact of TV was harder to measure than Facebook or Google, he suggested it was a “natural evolution” for group litigation. PGMBM has a call centre employing about 35 people to deal with the enquiries that result.
Mr Goodhead said the firm is planning to use TV for all of its cases; he said he was conscious of the risk of being labelled as ambulance chasers, but pointed to the types of cases PGMBM was pursuing. “We’re not trying to kick companies while they’re down.”
The firm has continued to grow rapidly since its launch in 2018 in conjunction with US class action firm Sanders Phillips Grossman.
We reported last May that the arrangement had ended and what was SPG Law had become PGMBM, which represents the first letter of each of the five partners’ surnames.
The unwieldy name reflects a focus on bringing Latin American cases in London – three of the five partners are Brazilian lawyers and the firm is planning to open in Brazil. Regulations there require firm names to include their owners’ surnames.
PGMBM has now 195 staff worldwide, around half of whom are in the UK. Mr Goodhead said the pace of growth would slow as the firm focused on its existing cases rather than launching lots of new ones.
In November, Mr Justice Turner ruled that the £5bn action it is bringing on behalf of more than 200,000 claimants over the Fundão Dam disaster in Brazil was an abuse of process because the claimants were bringing similar proceedings in Brazil at the same time, highlighting the logistic problems.
PGMBM is appealing what Mr Goodhead described as a “fundamentally flawed” decision.
The deadline for claimants to sign up to the BA case is 19 March. The airline revealed in September 2018 that there had been a breach of its security systems, leading to over 420,000 customers and staff having their personal data leaked, including names, debit and credit card numbers, addresses and email addresses.
PGMBM said it expected claimants could be awarded compensation of up to £2,000, putting BA’s overall potential liability at around £800m.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) initially planned to fine BA £183m for infringements of GDPR,, but subsequently revised it down to £20m, having considered representations from BA and the impact of Covid-19 on the business.
Mr Goodhead said: “The ICO set forth in no uncertain terms that BA failed to take adequate measures to keep the vital personal and financial information of its passengers secure.
“It’s yet another instance of a massive corporate entity showing complete disregard for their customers, and those customers deserve some redress.”
He said that, at a case management conference in November, BA told the court it was open to the possibility of entering into settlement discussions.
“We have not yet received any settlement proposals from BA and, until such time as any are received, we will continue to progress the litigation, including at the upcoming costs and case management conference in February.”