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Demystifying Class Actions

For a few years now, the medias, bloggers and especially the consumers became aware of the price gap between products for men and products for women. This phenomenon called “Pink Tax” attracted much attention. A simple search on Google and you will find hundreds, if not thousands of reports, articles, coverages or interviews about this famous “Pink Tax”.

But can women do something about this kind of discrimination?

Well, yes! In February 14, 2017, women from Quebec made their case heard by launching a class action against the “Pink Tax”. It made the headlines in Quebec, but it probably wasn’t the first time you heard about class action. If the most famous class actions, the ones against multinational companies or worth millions of dollars, are widely covered by the media, others, while they allow groups of people to access justice, remain unnoticed.
But what is a class action and how does this instrument of justice work?

What Is a Class Action?

Let’s imagine you pay a STM monthly subscription. You would expect certain standards in terms of service, for instance that the STM would carry you from a point A to a point B in a punctual and reliable way. What if you face frequent delays that cause negative repercussions on your life or your work? What can you do?
Sueing the STM can be tricky. The judicial costs would exceed the amount of money you could get and, like others in your case, you will feel powerless.
Class action can be useful in this case.
Class action is a tool that can be used by an individual before the Supreme Court to assert its own right or the rights of group members that are similar.

It All Starts With One Individual

If hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of people can take part in a class action, it all starts with one individual (or a group of individuals that share common interests).
One person would win his/her case after suffering prejudice, but the amount isn’t high enough to go to court. It is unusual for one person to have the time and resources to take a company to court for a small amount of money ($30 for instance). On the other hand, with a class action, you can claim for this $30 as the member of a collective or group of persons in the same situation as the first claimant.

The Six Requirements of a Class Action

A class action claim requires six conditions:
1. An individual suffered a prejudice
2. Other individuals suffered the same or similar prejudice
3. The claim seems immediately admissible to Court
4. There is a high number of people living the same situation
5. The members of the group can’t be identified (for instance, if we knew the details of the members, they could be gathered in an assembly of several appeals and not in a class action)
6. The claimant should be qualified to represent the members in an appropriate manner and should take the necessary measures before taking action (such as find other group members)

A Few Examples of Class Action in Quebec

Legal Logik has been a stakeholder in a number of class actions in Quebec during the last few weeks. Besides the “Pink Tax” class action, the STM was also targeted by a class action due to its increasingly frequent delays and service interruptions.The representative, Marion Croteau, demands to be reimbursed for 15 % of the monthly transport tickets bought since March 1st, 2014, in addition to other amounts to compensate, for instance, the expenses for the cabs she had to take because of consequent service delays. Considering the high number of users concerned by this action, the total amount could reach up to ten million dollars.
In the same vein, another class action was filed against six governmental organizations of Quebec against the photo radar. This action follows a decision by the Quebec Superior Court to cancel a ticket after judging that evidence based on photo radar is actually mere hearsay. The judge defended his position by outlining that no policeman is actually witness of the infraction when it occurs. This action aims to achieve the cancellation of all speeding tickets based on radar photo evidence as well as a reimbursement of the fines already paid and damages. The defendants include the ministère des Transports of Quebec, Sûreté du Québec and the Directeur des poursuites criminelles. The request challenges all the criterias established by the Quebec Court of Appeal concerning the validity of a speeding ticket in the Province of Quebec.
Class action may not be a foolproof method and raises numerous difficulties, but it can also be an effective way to access justice and obtained compensation for a group of individuals in the same situation of alleged injustice.