Main elements of the WAMCA
Since 1 January 2020, the Act on Collective Damages in Class Actions (WAMCA) further expanded the possibilities for class actions in the Netherlands. The WAMCA enables a single designated claim organisation to file a claim for monetary damages with the Dutch court for the benefit and on behalf of a group of stakeholders. Please refer to our news item of 20 March 2019 for the main changes that the WAMCA has brought and the key elements of the central register for class actions.
More lenient admissibility requirements
The WAMCA enables a designated claim organisation to opt for a more lenient admissibility regime for claims – other than monetary claims – that pursue an ideological purpose and that represent very little financial value. Several class actions that have been registered since 1 January 2020 claim to pursue an ideological purpose and were therefore filed using the more lenient admissibility requirements. (This trend started in the Netherlands years ago; please refer to our news item of 20 December 2019 on the Urgenda climate change case for an example.)
The most notable case to date is the claim that was filed by (among others) four claim organisations against the Dutch State (the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Justice and Security, in particular the Royal Netherlands Military Police). The claim serves a public, collective interest: putting an end to alleged ethnic profiling by the Military Police. The claimants extensively address their admissibility both under the more lenient regime (all four claimants) and under the regular admissibility regime (three out of four claimants).
The more lenient admissibility criteria are also invoked in class actions relating to the protection of copyright on (private and commercial) online content. For instance, Stichting BREIN has filed a claim at the request of the Motion Picture Association against (illegal) content storage on servers that belong to hosting providers established in the Netherlands. We note that Stichting BREIN declared to have filed its class action in pursuit of an ideological purpose, although (indirectly) the Motion Picture Association’s interests (representing six parties, including Disney and Netflix) might also be of a commercial nature.
First claims for monetary damages
Several claim organisations have filed claims for monetary damages under the WAMCA. For example, a foundation that declares in its writ of summons to advocate against the unlawful use of internet users’ personal data in the Netherlands initiated a collective claim against (among others) technology group Oracle. The foundation seeks to procure monetary damages for alleged (structural) breaches of GDPR regulations.
In relation to the discussion on diesel engine emissions, one claim organisation has already registered three collective claims under the WAMCA against the Volkswagen, Daimler and FiatChrysler groups, respectively. These collective claims have allegedly been filed for the benefit of large groups of car owners (divided into various categories). For Volkswagen, this is the second class action in the Netherlands. In a previous class action that was instigated prior to the introduction of the WAMCA, the Amsterdam district court has thus far ruled (Dutch only) on admissibility and applicable law.
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The WAMCA brings important changes to the dynamics surrounding class actions. Our team has extensive experience with class actions, settlements and other forms of collective redress. For more information, please contact us.