Class actions

On behalf of the team

On 17 December 2020, the Advocate General’s opinion was published in case C-709/19, in which the Supreme Court put preliminary questions to the European Court of Justice on jurisdiction in class actions pursuant to the Brussels I Regulation (Recast). [1]Opinion of the Advocate General Campos Sanchéz-Bordona 17 December 2020, Case C-709/19. The underlying case pertains to a claim by the Dutch Association of Stockholders (VEB) about a decrease in the value of BP shares due to alleged deceit by BP regarding to an oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. The District Court and the Court of Appeal had held earlier that the Dutch court does not have jurisdiction, as BP has its registered office in the United Kingdom.

The Advocate General’s response was that the place where the investment account is held does not provide a sufficient basis for the international jurisdiction of the Member State concerned without additional circumstances. The Advocate General also discussed other circumstances (such as consumers being included within those represented, and a settlement from a third country) which, in his opinion, likewise did not constitute special circumstances.

The Supreme Court had also asked whether the rules of jurisdiction should be applied differently (in other words: less strictly) in cases in which the VEB institutes a class action. According to the Supreme Court, the effectiveness of the class action mechanism would be lost if the VEB had to lodge a claim at every place where damage occurred. In the Advocate General’s view, the rules of jurisdiction in Article 7(2) of the Brussels I Regulation (Recast) should not be applied differently even in the case of a class action by the VEB. Although the Advocate General acknowledged the risk identified by the Supreme Court, he took the view that the regime under the Regulation offered no other option. The Advocate General’s response on this point is in line with the CDC judgment (C-352/13, EU:C:2015:335), in which the Court of Justice did not accept that transfer and bundling of claims could affect the determination of international jurisdiction.