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Piper Alderman flags competing Qantas class action

Commercial firm Piper Alderman told a court it is weeks out from filing a competing class action against Qantas for failing to give customers full cash refunds for cancelled flights during the pandemic.

user iconNaomi Neilson 12 October 2023 Big Law
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Appearing in the Federal Court on Thursday (12 October) morning, Thomas Bagley, counsel for Piper Alderman, said the firm has spent six months investigating the major airline and could be prepared to file its own proceedings within the next fortnight.

Piper Alderman’s potential class action will clash with proceedings lodged two months ago by Echo Law.

Both firms alleged Qantas has “enjoyed significant financial benefits at its customers’ expense” for issuing travel credits or vouchers instead of full cash refunds for their cancelled COVID-19 flights.


The vouchers were subject to “significant restrictions” and could expire, which Echo Law submitted meant they were of “much lower value to customers than the refunds to which they were entitled”.

Echo Law counsel Dr Oren Bigos objected to Piper Alderman’s class action, telling the court that because they did not have a lead applicant or had filed anything, they “simply turned up and said they want in”.

Dr Bigos said that allowing Piper Alderman to interrupt the proceedings would delay the progress of setting down a timetable.

“If the proceedings are put on hold … it will set a precedent that a person could turn up, without filing any proceeding of their own. He has turned up and hasn’t got his own proceeding,” Dr Bigos said.

Having heard from Qantas that they are prepared to issue refunds to customers – and have started this process with Echo Law’s own lead applicant – Justice Bernard Murphy said without this competing class action, he would have sent them to a registrar instead to find an agreement.

Under questioning from Justice Murphy, Mr Bagley admitted there is no client and no funding agreement but said the firm secured interest from Omni Bridgeway to fund its proceedings.

“There are substantially advanced pleadings and have been substantial discussions with (potential) applicants,” Mr Bagley added.

“All I can say is I anticipate within the next two to three weeks, the pleading will be finalised, and the proceedings will commence.”

Justice Murphy agreed the proposed new proceeding is “mucking everybody up” in terms of timetabling but said the “first to file is a terrible rule and will promote bad behaviour” among law firms.

“I do need to countenance that some people will take a bit longer, and I hope, in doing so, will do a better job of their due diligence,” he said.

However, Justice Murphy cautioned the two firms from acting outside of the group members’ interests by only pursuing a multiplicity fight rather than considering merging the two.

Justice Murphy said a decision to not consolidate is rarely in the group members’ interest; “it’s in the funder’s interest or the lawyer’s”.

Justice Murphy flagged making an order that any competing class action should be filed in the court within the next two weeks.

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