CJEU decides that EU freedom of establishment rules limit Member States’ ability to give less favourable treatment to a bankrupt’s pension savings in other Member States

In a judgment issued today the Court of Justice of the EU held that Article 49 TFEU (freedom of establishment) limited the ability of the UK, in its insolvency rules, to give less favourable treatment to a bankrupt’s pension in a scheme registered in another Member State than it would have given had the pension been in an equivalent UK pension scheme.

The case concerned an Irish property developer, Mr M, who had put assets into an Irish pension scheme approved under Irish tax law. Subsequently, he moved to the UK to start a self-employment as a business consultant. He was then made bankrupt in the UK. The trustees in bankruptcy claimed that the assets in the Irish scheme formed part of the bankruptcy estate. However, UK insolvency law generally excludes assets in a UK pension scheme registered with HMRC from the bankruptcy estate. Mr M argued that Article 49 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU required his Irish pension assets to be treated in the same way as if they were in a registered UK scheme. The trustees in bankruptcy argued that Article 49 did not apply. In January 2020, the High Court referred that question to the CJEU (here). It added that, if Article 49 did apply, it would be possible to “read down” the relevant statutory provisions so that the general exclusion for pension assets in UK schemes registered with HMRC also applied to equivalent schemes in other Member States.

In today’s ruling, the CJEU agreed with Mr M that Article 49 applied and that, unless there was a justification for the difference of treatment (a point not taken by the trustees before the High Court, and as to which the Court saw a number of significant difficulties) then Article 49 precluded the difference in treatment between Mr M’s assets in hisIrish pension scheme and assets in an equivalent UK scheme.

This reference was made before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020: under Article 86 of the Withdrawal Agreement the Court of Justice of the EU continues to have jurisdiction to rule on references from UK courts made that date, and the ruling is binding on the UK.

George Peretz QC acted for Mr M in the High Court and in the Court of Justice of the EU.

Representative actions & data protection – the Supreme Court gives judgment in Lloyd v Google

The Supreme Court today handed down judgment in Lloyd v Google [2021] UKSC 50.

Allowing Google’s appeal, the Supreme Court held that damages cannot be awarded under the Data Protection Act 1998 for “loss of control” of data without proof that it caused financial damage or distress. On that basis, it concluded that the claim was not suitable to proceed as a representative action, because compensation for the alleged breaches of data protection law would need to be individually assessed. Delivering the single agreed judgment of the Court, Lord Leggatt stated: “In order to recover compensation under the DPA 1998 for any given individual, it would be necessary to show both that Google made some unlawful use of personal data relating to that individual and that the individual suffered some damage as a result” (§8).

The Supreme Court, however, limited its analysis to the old data protection framework and did not opine on the wider merits and desirability of a representative action of this kind. It thus left open the possibility of future representative actions in data protection cases being brought under the UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, or for misuse of private information.

The judgment is available here. A detailed case note by Laura Elizabeth John is here.

Gerry Facenna QC and Nikolaus Grubeck acted for the First Intervener, the Information Commissioner.

Robert Palmer QC and Julianne Kerr Morrison acted for the Second Intervener, Open Rights Group.

Josh Holmes QC, Ciar McAndrew and Antonia Fitzpatrick act in £380m opt-out collective proceedings against CompareTheMarket

An opt-out collective claim on behalf of over 20 million UK consumers has today been filed against the companies which own and operate the price comparison website CompareTheMarket.com.

The claim is based on a decision of the Competition and Markets Authority, which last year found that CompareTheMarket infringed competition law by using “wide most favoured nation clauses” in its contracts with a number of insurers.

The proposed class representative, Home Insurance Consumer Action Limited, contends that these wide MFNs also caused millions of consumers to pay higher prices for their home insurance.

The proposed class representative is represented by Josh Holmes QC, Ciar McAndrew and Antonia Fitzpatrick, alongside Tristan Jones. The counsel team is instructed by Nicola Boyle, Lucy Rigby and Luke Grimes of Hausfeld & Co. LLP.

The claim is further proof of Monckton Chambers’ status as the go-to set for collective proceedings, with members currently acting in Merricks, FX, Pride, Train Tickets, Trucks, Le Patourel, McLaren, and Coll.

Court of Appeal rules on suspension of relief under retained EU law

In R (Open Rights Group & The3Million) v SSHD & SSDCMS [2021] EWCA Civ 800, the Court of Appeal found that the ‘Immigration Exemption’ under the Data Protection Act 2018 is incompatible with retained EU law. The Court has now given a further judgment dealing with the jurisdiction to suspend relief: [2021] EWCA Civ 1571.

In this judgment, the Court of Appeal held that it had the jurisdiction, derived from retained EU law, to suspend the disapplication of legislative provisions such as the Immigration Exemption. That jurisdiction should be exercised only if the court is satisfied that (i) the period of suspension imposed is really needed to avoid legal uncertainty (ii) the party requesting the suspension has acted in good faith, and (iii) immediate disapplication would cause “serious difficulties”. On the facts, the Court of Appeal decided that it was prepared to suspend relief but, given the requirement of strict necessity identified in the authorities, only until 31 January 2022, in order to provide a reasonable time for the Data Protection Act 2018 to be amended so as to remedy the incompatibility.

Julianne Morrison and Nikolaus Grubeck acted for the successful Appellants.

CAT certifies “Boundary Fares” opt-out collective proceedings against the operators of the South Eastern and South Western rail franchises

Today, the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) has certified two separate applications for opt-out collective proceedings against the operators of the South Eastern and South Western rail franchises for alleged abuses of their dominant positions in relation to the sale of “Boundary Fares”, a type of extension ticket for use in conjunction with a TfL Travelcard.

The class representative, Mr Justin Gutmann, alleges that the train operating companies abused their dominant position by failing to make Boundary Fares sufficiently available, or to use their best endeavours to ensure a general awareness among their customers of Boundary Fares, with the result that many Travelcard holders paid twice for part of their rail journeys.

Mr Gutmann will now represent an estimated 3 million London rail passengers in their claims which have an estimated total value of £93 million across the two claims.

The unanimous judgment from the CAT (available here) dismissed the respondents’ applications for strike out and summary judgment, holding that the applicant’s case on abuse is reasonably arguable, and not a “dramatic extension of the existing law”.  The CAT also found that the claims satisfy the authorisation and eligibility requirements for collective proceedings, and that the claims should be allowed to proceed on an opt-out basis.

The judgment addresses a number of important issues that are of broader relevance to the UK collective proceedings regime, including the extent to which there remains a need for individual factual assessment in collective proceedings, the extent to which a class may contain members that have not suffered loss, and a discussion of the different approaches taken by the UK and the Canadian regimes to aggregate damages awards.

The decision is only the third collective proceedings order granted by the CAT following its earlier judgments in Merricks and Le Patourel.

Philip Moser QC, Stefan Kuppen and Alexandra Littlewood (instructed by Hausfeld & Co LLP and Charles Lyndon Ltd) represent the successful class representative.

Tim Ward QC and James Bourke (instructed by Slaughter and May) represent First MTR South Western Trains Limited.

Paul Harris QC, Anneliese Blackwood and Michael Armitage (instructed by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP) represent London & South Eastern Railway Limited.

Freedom of information: Alison Berridge represents requester in key Upper Tribunal case on national security exemptions

The Upper Tribunal has ruled on the practice of public authorities refusing FOIA requests citing both ss 23 and 24 “in the alternative”, despite the fact that they are mutually exclusive and only one can apply to any piece of requested information.

The so-called “masking” practice arose because citing (or not citing) s.23 would reveal whether the requested information related to a security body, something the FCDO argued may raise national security issues.

The Tribunal accepted the national security concerns, which it concluded were for the executive to evaluate, and held that in the context the requirement to “specify” the exemption relied on means no more than to “cite” or “identify” it.

Alison Berridge represented one of the three requesters.

The decision is available here.

Josh Holmes QC & Nikolaus Grubeck secure indemnity costs award for their client in the CAT

Following a successful application for strike-out / summary judgment by Coca-Cola European Partners (“CCEP”) in a competition claim brought against it by a drinks wholesaler, the Competition Appeal Tribunal has made a rare order awarding CCEP its costs in the action on the indemnity basis.

The Tribunal held that CCEP was “the wholly successful party” and that the Claimant’s conduct of the action was such as to take the case “out of the normal” in a way which justifies an order for indemnity costs.

The full judgment in the application can be found here.

The reasoned costs order can be found here.

Josh Holmes QC and Nikolaus Grubeck acted for CCEP, instructed by CMS.

Opt-out class action by over 2m consumers certified: first attempt to strike out a CPO rejected

Today, the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) has certified opt-out collective proceedings against BT for alleged excessive pricing in abuse of its dominant position in standalone landline telephone services. The class representative, Mr Justin Le Patourel, will now represent over 2 million consumers in their claims that have an estimated value of up to £600m.

The unanimous judgment from the CAT (available here) held that “the opt-out basis is clearly more appropriate and suitable than the opt-in basis” and rejected all of BT’s arguments to the contrary. The CAT also dismissed all of BT’s submissions that the claims should be struck. It held that “there is a real prospect of success for this claim and [BT’s] cross-application must be dismissed… [The claims] must be determined at a full trial after all the relevant evidence is adduced and considered”.

The decision is the first successful defence of an application for strike-out / summary judgment in a CPO claim. It is only the second collective proceedings order granted by the CAT.

Ronit Kreisberger QC, Nikolaus Grubeck, and Jack Williams represent the successful class representative, Justin Le Patourel. The counsel team are instructed by Mishcon de Reya.

Please click here to read the case note.

The case is being reported in the media:

The Times

The Guardian

Independent

Daily Mail

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Legal Futures

Ian Wise QC, Michael Armitage and Will Perry secure victory for five-year-old boy against the Environment Agency in Walleys Quarry Landfill Right to Life case

R (On the Application of) v The Environment Agency [2021] EWHC 2501

In a landmark human rights case involving a vulnerable five-year-old boy, Mathew Richards, Monckton’s Ian Wise QC, Michael Armitage and Will Perry succeeded in showing that the Environment Agency is not discharging its statutory duty under s. 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 to protect the boy’s right to life and right to respect for private and family life (under Articles 2 and 8 respectively of the European Convention on Human Rights) in its regulation of harmful hydrogen sulphide emissions from the Walleys Quarry Landfill Site in the Staffordshire village of Silverdale.

The Silverdale community’s campaign to “Stop the Stink” from the Landfill has been well publicised in the national media and discussed in Parliament. Mathew, the Claimant, was born prematurely and suffers from bronchopulmonary dysplasia (“BPD”) as a result. In his judgment of 16 September, Fordham J found: (i) that ongoing exposure to hydrogen sulphide emissions from the Landfill at current levels was responsible for making Mathew’s BPD “an inevitable precursor” to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, “a serious illness reducing life expectancy”; and (ii) that, as such, exposure to those emissions posed a “real and imminent risk” to Mathew’s life for the purposes of Article 2 ECHR. He noted that the Environment Agency has the power to protect Mathew from that exposure.

Fordham J did not accept the Environment Agency’s submission that it had done what the law required it to do to protect Mathew, because he had not been presented with any evidence of a disciplined plan to address a recommendation that Public Health England had made in August that “all measures” be taken to reduce off-site emissions of hydrogen sulphide “as early as possible” to certain levels.

Fordham J underlined that PHE’s recommendations required “real and significant change, as a matter of urgency”, in order to ensure that human rights safeguards were practical and effective. In line with those recommendations, he therefore made a declaration that the Environment Agency must take measures to ensure that off-site odours from the Landfill are reduced as early as possible to meet the World Health Organisation’s half-hour average guideline level of 5 parts per billion, and that concentrations of hydrogen sulphide in the local area must be reduced to below the US EPA Reference Value of 1 part per billion (recommended by PHE as a safe level for chronic inhalation) from January 2022, concluding those reductions would make a “very real difference” to the air that Mathew and his community breathe.

The case is legally significant for three principal reasons. First, live evidence was heard from expert witnesses, namely Mathew’s consultant paediatrician Dr Ian Sinha and Professor Sir Colin Berry, a histopathologist and toxicologist who was the expert for the Interested Party, the Landfill operator Walleys Quarry Limited. That is rare in judicial review in any event, but it is thought that this is the first time that the Administrative Court has used the “hot-tubbing” of experts as a way of cutting through the issues. Second, Fordham J’s is the first domestic judgment explicitly to decide that a reduction in life expectancy can be identified with a “real and imminent risk” to life for the purposes of Article 2 ECHR. Third, this was the first domestic environmental case that considered both Article 2 and Article 8 ECHR in tandem.

The judgment is available here.

Ian Wise QC, Michael Armitage and Will Perry acted for the Claimant (instructed by Hopkin Murray Beskine Ltd).

The case is being reported widely in the media:
The Guardian (16 September) and The Guardian (17 September);
BBC News;
Independent;
The Times;
Sky News.

 

Please click here to read the case note.

Imogen Proud is sole counsel in JR challenge to eviction from emergency housing during the “Everyone In” Scheme

Imogen Proud, instructed by Derek Bernardi of Camden Community Law Centre, is acting for Mohammed Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi national with leave to remain in the UK but with no recourse to public funds. Bhuiyan was housed by Tower Hamlets last March as part of the “Everyone In” Scheme which required all councils to find emergency housing for rough sleepers in response to the pandemic.

Despite the Ministry of Housing, Community and Local Government stating that the Scheme was “ongoing” and that “no one should find themselves back on the street”, on 22 June 2021 Mr Bhuiyan received a letter from the council saying that he must leave the hotel by 2 August. On Monday, Bhuiyan’s legal team were successful in securing an interim relief order which means that Tower Hamlets must continue to accommodate Mr Bhuiyan pending a decision on permission to proceed with his claim.

The case has attracted media attention including an article written by May Bulman, the Independent’s Social Affairs Correspondent, in Monday’s edition which can be read by subscribers here.