The public believes that lawyers and litigation funders are more likely than clients to gain from class actions, new research has found.
Winning compensation, holding large companies to account, and helping consumers were considered to be less likely, according to the survey of 1,000 people carried out by litigation communications business Portland Disputes.
Nearly half of people also rated their overall awareness and knowledge about class actions as ‘low’, with nearly 30% saying it was ‘very low’.
Public awareness of specific class actions was also low. Over two-thirds of respondents had never heard of the High Court class action brought by taxi drivers against Uber, and 75% were unaware of the competition class action against MasterCard.
“This low level of awareness perhaps feeds into the belief that it is difficult for individuals to take on a large company by themselves, a belief held by 65% of respondents,” Portland said.
“People believe that the judicial system has more power to hold companies to account than regulators and the government. However, the public are perceived to have far less power to do so. Class actions may hold the key to closing this gap in perception.”
Only 30% of people believed the public has the power to hold companies to account for breaking the law
The survey warned: “During the life cycle of class action claims, law firms, litigation funders and litigation support firms therefore cannot assume that the general public in the UK has a solid understanding of class actions on which to build their case.”
Philip Hall, senior partner and global head of disputes at Portland, said: “Law firms, litigation funders and litigation support firms must do more to earn people’s trust when it comes to class actions in the UK.
“As group litigation’s position in the UK’s legal landscape continues to evolve, understanding what drives both awareness and participation for a class will be essential – both on the claimant and defendant side.”
Portland also quoted James Oldnall, the partner at Mishcon de Reya running Lloyd v Google – a class action over Google’s alleged unlawful and clandestine tracking of iPhone users in 2011 and 2012. He said: “Group litigation in the UK is undeniably evolving. The time is nigh for law firms and funders to better understand what drives an individual or business to take the leap and join a class action, and advocate for others to do the same.”