Class-action lawsuits coming to the Netherlands; New law starts Jan. 1

Scales of justice and gavel on law book
Scales of justice and gavel on law bookPhoto: tomloel/DepositPhotos

From next year, Netherlands residents and businesses who suffered collective damage, for example through a car or another product that's been tampered with, can go together to court to get their damages compensated. A new law by Minister Sander Dekker for Legal Protection, which allows these class action lawsuits, takes effect on January 1st.

Currently, joint proceedings only allow for a judge to make a ruling, for example on whether a company acted lawfully. No compensation can be claimed. If the ruling is in the victims' favor, they have to arrange the compensation themselves.

But according to Dekker, practice shows that this is not always easy. Sometimes the costs involved in an individual procedure outweigh the damage that can be claimed. Interest groups can help a group of victims get a settlement, but if the person who caused the damage does not cooperate, the victims are left empty handed.

This class-action lawsuit bill will change that. From January 1st the whole case, including damages, can be settled in one procedure. "If you are in trouble, it is nice if you can go to court together to claim compensation. That saves time, money and endless individual lawsuits", Dekker said. 

The law also stipulates that interest groups, such as consumers organizations' or ad hoc organizations established for a specific collective claim, must have their finances and organization in order before they can submit a claim. This is to protect citizens against possibly fraudulent organizations. There will also be a central register for collective claims.