18 September 2018

Korea to expand class action lawsuit system after BMW fires

A number of incidents involving BMW cars catching fire has led to government action on changing the rules of class action in South Korea.

The South Korean government is seeking to expand the class action lawsuit system to enable consumers to file such suits not only in stock-related cases but also in other areas, according to justice minister Park Sang-ki.

Detailed measures

Mr Park was addressing a meeting with victims of high-profile consumer cases, and follows a series of much publicized fires in the country involving BMW cars and deaths caused by humidifier sterilizers. The meeting was convened specifically to discuss expanding the class action suit system. In South Korea, the class action system is allowed only in stock-related cases, but calls have risen for its expansion, especially in the wake of the BMW fires. Mr Park explained, ‘we're going to introduce the class action lawsuit system in areas where group damage can occur in a repetitive manner, while improving the criteria for such suits and procedures in a reasonable way.’ He said the government will put together detailed measures to expand the system.

Investigation

Last week, police searched the local office of BMW, sending over 30 investigators to discover whether the company concealed defects in their vehicle which led to dozens of engine fires.  The search took place three weeks after 21 BMW car owners filed a complaint with the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency against the local unit of the German carmaker. Police so far have looked into BMW-related documents through cooperation with the relevant authorities, including the transport ministry, but this was the first time they used forcible measures to secure material. A police official said, ‘we are securing evidence related to the case in an effort to find the facts behind the consecutive fires.’ Police are particularly looking for records of internal meeting and documents related to defects in the vehicles' exhaust-gas recirculation (EGR) valves and coolers, which are suspected of being the cause of the fires.