Reforms of the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) will lead to US-style class action cases in all but name, a Law Society conference heard last week.

The Consumer Rights Act, which received royal assent in March, gives the CAT the power to hear opt-out collective action, building on its previous power to hear opt-in collective actions.

Anthony Maton, managing partner at class action specialist Hausfeld, told the annual conference of the Society’s Competition Section that the reforms give collective action at the CAT ‘all the features of the US system’.

‘These actions are possible and they are fundable and we have to prepare for a number of class actions being run at the CAT come October [when the rules come into force],’ he said.

The rules will also allow defendants to anticipate and settle class actions.

While a previous attempt to reform the CAT failed to have much impact on competition litigation, the new reform gives the tribunal full jurisdiction.

The CAT will be able to hear fast-track cases and issue injunctions without ordering any undertaking for damages, meaning that the court can allow parties to obtain an injunction without the need to compensate for any loss if the injunction is later found to have been issued wrongly.

This combination will open the door for new claims in the right market, Maton said, as the removal of the risk involved in undertaking for damages will allow small business to bring claims against dominant players.

‘These reforms are a real game changer in the context of competition litigation. There will be more activity in the CAT and more activity for everyone involved in competition litigation,’ he said.