Atkinson v Equifax: representative action withdrawn

Having blogged earlier today about a very happy outcome in Morrisons, I now want to share with you some important news concerning another large-scale privacy action, namely Atkinson v Equifax Ltd.

As many readers of this blog will know, Mr Atkinson brought a representative action under CPR 19.6 against Equifax in connection with the very significant cyber-attack on Equifax US that occurred in 2017. The action was brought essentially on the basis that, along with all the members of the class he purported to represent, Mr Atkinson had suffered damage in the form of a ‘loss of control’ over his data, that loss of control itself resulting, so Mr Atkinson claimed, from Equifax’s alleged failure to maintain appropriate security around the data affected in the attack (the Particulars of Claim can be accessed via Lawtel). Notably, the action was commenced by Mr Atkinson a matter of days after the Court of Appeal handed down judgment in Lloyd v Google [2019] EWCA Civ 1599. Hayes Connor, acting for Mr Atkinson, subsequently went on record claiming that the action was worth £100 million and had been brought on behalf of a class of 15 million people – see here.

Following service of Equifax’s defence, which amongst other things challenged the correctness of the Court of Appeal’s judgment in Lloyd v Google and also the application of the ratio of that judgment in a cyber-attack case, Hayes Connor wrote to Equifax’s solicitors (Hogan Lovells LLP) confirming that, in light of how matters had been put in the defence, Mr Atkinson was withdrawing the representative action. Hayes Connor subsequently confirmed in writing its acceptance that Equifax was entitled to recover the costs it had incurred responding to the action, which costs as you may imagine are not insignificant.

This is a major development, and one that carries within it an important cautionary message for all those claimants (and their representatives) who may be inclined to rush precipitately to mount large-scale privacy actions.

I acted for Equifax, along with Robin Hopkins. We were both instructed by Ivan Shiu at Hogan Lovells LLP.

Anya Proops QC