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Resource Centre > Glossary > Class actions, group actions

There is certainly no consensus as to terminology here: ‘collective actions’ is also a popular term. In the EU policy arena, the developments in the area of collective actions are now commonly referred to as ‘collective redress’.

Collective redress is a notion which indicates a wider category of redress mechanisms than those based on litigation: it can also involve public enforcement by regulators or ombudsmen (see also the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation), the use of ADR mechanisms, or various compensation schemes or funds (see no-fault compensation).

Much narrower concepts than collective redress, collective or group actions indicate actions before courts, initiated by or on behalf of a group of persons, or against a group of persons. Class actions, group actions and representative actions are all forms of these.

Class actions – a procedure which originated in the United States, based on Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. It is essentially a representative procedure – a number of representative claimants take action in the name of all members of the class who need to opt-out if they do not wish to take part in the litigation. Class actions are normally associated with the wider context of the US legal system which involves extensive discovery, jury trials, punitive damages, contingency fees, no loser pays rule, and also the socio-economic context: such as the largely private healthcare provision.

Group actions – also referred to as collective actions. Normally they would involve a group of claimants, but are organised in a different manner than the US-style actions. European legal systems have developed their own models of group actions: see for instance the Swedish model, the Spanish model, or the Bulgarian model

Representative actions – a type of collective action where a representative is one of the claimants, or a representative organisation/body (such as an Ombudsman, or a consumer association). In the latter case, the representative body takes action in the name of the group members, but is not itself a claimant.

Group Litigation Order – a case management mechanism which has operated in the UK: initially established by judicial practice and subsequently codified by the Civil Procedure Rules. See also – UK group litigation in the National Collective Redress Models Section).

See Link for the explanation of the difference betwen Opt-in and Opt-out actions.

See also the Link to our 'national collective redress models' section.