Businesses are increasingly using human rights arguments in commercial disputes, with the number of such cases increasing from 10 to 45 in four years, new research has revealed.

A study by legal information provider Sweet & Maxwell reports cases in 2012 that included a radio station arguing that a ban on political advertising restricted its right to freedom of expression; and a residential care services provider protesting that cutting or freezing fees prevented it from protecting its residents’ right to dignity.

The research disclosed that the number of businesses using arguments based on the Human Rights Act (HRA) jumped from 39 cases in 2011 to 45 cases in 2012. In 2008, there were just 10 such cases.

Blackstone Chambers barrister Tom Hickman said: ‘Most practitioners did not initially see the HRA as an important tool in commercial cases, but businesses now regularly make arguments based on it. For example, the right to a fair trial can reinforce a business’s request to have a regulatory decision re-examined and influence the way a case is conducted.

‘The HRA has not, as some commentators were concerned at the time, opened the courts to an unstoppable flood of claims, but we have definitely seen a broadening of the concept of human rights to include organisations and businesses as well as individuals.’