Table of Contents

Class Actions in Context

Class Actions in Context

How Culture, Economics and Politics Shape Collective Litigation

Edited by Deborah R. Hensler, Christopher Hodges and Ianika Tzankova

In recent years collective litigation procedures have spread across the globe, accompanied by hot controversy and normative debate. Yet virtually nothing is known about how these procedures operate in practice. Based on extensive documentary and interview research, this volume presents the results of the first comparative investigation of class actions and group litigation ‘in action’, in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Chapter 1: The global landscape of collective litigation

Deborah R. Hensler

Subjects: law - academic, arbitration and dispute resolution, comparative law, consumer law, law and society, law of obligations


Over the past several decades, the class action—a representative legal procedure in which some person or organization comes forward to litigate on behalf of a group or group interest—has spread worldwide. Some form of representative collective litigation procedure is now recognized by more than three dozen national jurisdictions (see Table 1.1). The procedure goes by different formal names in different parts of the world—for example ‘collective action’, ‘collective redress’, ‘popular action’—but is often referred to informally as a class action in recognition of its resemblance to the American class action. Although previously regarded strictly as a common law procedure, the class action has now been integrated into civil law regimes in Asia, Europe and South America, and 21 of the 25 largest economies in the world have adopted a class action procedure to date, most in the last 20 years. As a result of the 2013 European Union Recommendation on Collective Redress, more European countries can be expected to join this list in the near future. Many jurisdictions provide for class actions by statute. In some jurisdictions that do not have such statutes but have Constitutions or statutes that grant collective rights—for example, for protection of consumers, the environment or national heritage—judges have permitted representative collective litigation to claim those rights. In the United States (US), federal and state rules of civil procedure provide for class actions. The spread of class actions globally is an example of what have come to be called ‘legal transplants’ (Watson, 1974).