Lawyers are clamouring for our business. If, between certain dates, you bought a diesel car, or booked with British Airways, or subscribed to Virgin Media, they want to sue those firms on your behalf. The BA and Virgin Media cases concern data breaches; the diesel one is about car-makers misleading customers by cheating on vehicle emissions tests.
Take BA as an example. More than 420,000 customer records, including some credit-card details, were stolen in data breaches from people who made a booking either (a) using Avios through BA’s website between 21 April and 28 July 2018; or (b) through BA’s site or mobile app from 21 August to 5 September 2018.
If that’s you, you could join what’s called a Group Litigation Order to sue BA. Already one case has been settled for up to 40,000 people: the airline denied liability but is thought to have paid millions to customers in compensation. (A condition of the settlement was that all numbers were kept secret.)
Now a firm called Your Lawyers is assembling several thousand people to take a second case. At this stage there is no cost, but if the firm wins it will keep 35 per cent of any compensation. It expects BA to settle rather than go to court, but if the carrier did fight the case, claimants would have to pay for insurance to cover BA’s legal costs if it won. Your Lawyers says that is highly unlikely but it would guarantee that its share plus the insurance would never take more than half the compensation.
You will find similar deals to fight the Virgin Media and diesel cars cases: several solicitors are hunting clients. Joining a group and using professionals means giving away a cut of whatever you win, but gives you a much better chance than trying to pursue it yourself.
If you are tempted to go for it, find out exactly all the costs and charges before committing yourself. Never pay money up front to join a claims group.
Paul Lewis presents Money Box on Radio 4.