Justin Gutmann obtains certification for opt-out collective proceedings on behalf of train travellers
In great news for train travellers today, the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) has approved our client, Mr Justin Gutmann, as class representative in his landmark standalone claim for abuses of dominance by the South Western and Southeastern rail franchises. The claims aim to put a stop to double charging, and are estimated to be worth around £93 million in damages on behalf of millions of passengers who have travelled in and around London. Hausfeld is representing Mr Gutmann, an experienced campaigner on both consumer issues and the transport sector, along with its co-counsel Charles Lyndon.
The claims relate to boundary fares, which allow passengers who own a Travelcard to travel beyond the zones covered by their Travelcard without doubling up on payment. Mr Gutmann alleges that First MTR South Western Trains, Stagecoach South Western Trains (together, South Western) and London & Southeastern Railway (Southeastern) did not make boundary fares sufficiently available for Travelcard holders to purchase or make passengers aware of their existence. These failures have left customers with little option but to buy a higher fare than required because their Travelcard already entitled them to travel for part of their journey. Mr Gutmann alleges that this is an abuse of the rail companies’ dominant market position and in breach of competition laws.
Under the UK's competition regime, a person wishing to bring a class action on behalf of customers (and/or businesses) must first secure approval from the CAT. Mr Gutmann’s applications for a collective proceedings order (CPO) was heard by the CAT in a four-day hearing from 9 to 12 March 2021. In its judgment, the CAT granted Mr Gutmann’s applications for a CPO in both cases and authorised him to act as class representative.
This collective action is funded by Woodsford, a founding member of the Association of Litigation Funders of England and Wales.
Anthony Maton, Managing Partner at Hausfeld said:
“Millions of train passengers, often commuting daily on South Western and Southeastern, can now claim for the double charging that saw them pay twice for many journeys – once through their travel cards and once through their ticket journeys. Today the court agreed to allow the claims to proceed so that rail passengers are a step closer to obtaining restitution from the rail franchises for these long running malpractices.
We are delighted to be at the forefront of the development of the collective actions regime in the UK and a part of the team leading only the second ever standalone opt-out collective action to have been certified”.
Now that the claims have been certified, the cases will proceed to full trial and, if successful, the millions of rail users who are believed to have been double-charged will be compensated for their loss. Affected passengers who live in the UK will be automatically included in the claims although they can choose to opt-out in due course. Affected passengers who do not live in the UK will also be eligible to join the claims but must proactively opt-in.
The case received a lot of attention in the press as indicated below and Justin was interviewed by BBC SouthEast as a guest on the Vanessa Feltz programme on BBC London.
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