Class Action Lawsuits now possible in Thailand
Class actions are civil court proceedings brought by a representative on behalf of a group of people. They are time efficient and cost effective, and help to avoid overlaps when complaints are filed and inconsistencies when judgments are rendered.
An update to Thailand’s Act Amending the Civil Procedure Code of Thailand (No. 26) B.E. 2558 (the “Act”) was announced in the Royal Thai Government Gazette on 8 April 2015. Such update, which will be effective in December 2015, means that class action lawsuits will be available in Thailand for the first time, opening up opportunities to aggregate small claims that would otherwise not be effective to litigate. Clearly, the possibility to become a defendant in a class action lawsuit significantly increases the risk of doing business for companies and operators in Thailand.
For a claim to be eligible for class action, such claim must be based on the same right arising out of (i) the same common facts and (ii) the same principle of law. The same common facts are facts that provide the same right to a group of people, e.g. a gas truck explosion causing damage, injury or death. The same principle of law means that the nature of the claim must be the same, where the right derives from tort or the breach of an agreement. The damage suffered, however, does not have to be the same; it can be death, bodily injury or even ‘damage to morals’. No minimum amount of damages is required.
The law does not specify the number of people required to file a class action claim. However, class action lawsuits are only allowed by the Act to be filed by the Plaintiff, meaning that there is no Defendant class action. All courts in Thailand – except Municipal Courts – have jurisdiction for class action claims.
Cases that are eligible for class action according to the Act are as follows:
2. Breaches of contract; and
3. Rights claims that derive from other laws, i.e. Environmental law, Consumer Protection law, Labour law, Securities & Exchange law, and Trade Competition law.
Courts in Thailand will consider the following in deciding whether or not to allow a class action lawsuit:
1. The same right arises out of the same common facts and principle of law;
2. The group of people is clearly defined;
3. A normal lawsuit would be inconvenient;
4. A class action lawsuit would be fair and effective; and
5. The Plaintiff must demonstrate that the group of people is a party of interest in the case.
The Judge decides if the case satisfies the criteria specified for class action. Courts in Thailand have the power to allow, to define the scope and characteristics of the class, and to terminate the class action.
In Thailand, the ‘opt-out’ rule is used which means that anyone who does not wish to be a part of the group can declare their wish of not wanting to be included in the group. Declaring such wish does not deprive them of the right to pursue individual claims later. People in the group have forty-five (45) days to opt-out.
Once a judgment is rendered, the Plaintiff may only appeal as a group; there are no individual appeal rights.