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BA bid to save billions by slashing data breach claim time

Written by: Emma Lunn
Airline’s lawyers demand claim window of just 17 weeks to limit potential hit of £3bn.

British Airways (BA) has been accused of launching “a cynical bid” to limit a potential £3bn payout over two data breaches by demanding claimants act within just 17 weeks.

Your Lawyers, a consumer rights law firm representing claimants in the breach, has branded BA’s legal manoeuvre “a disgrace”.

In an unprecedented move, BA has applied to launch its own class action for victims of the hack – but with the condition that claimants must join within four months of its opening.

In comparison, for the group litigation order for Volkswagen’s ‘Dieselgate’ scandal claimants had almost 10 months to act. Those in the Berkley Burke SIPP group litigation order relating to pension investments had six months, while the PIP group litigation relating to defective breast implants had a 12-month window.

Previous group litigation orders have been applied for by claimants, not defendants.

Your Lawyers says that in large consumer actions such as this, the court would never allow such a short recruitment window unless BA could guarantee all its affected customers had been notified; otherwise it would mean most claimants would miss out on the group litigation order.

A hearing at the High Court of England and Wales on 4 October will decide if BA’s action can go ahead under its restrictive terms.

According to Your Lawyers, only about 6,000 potential claimants are estimated to have contacted lawyers with a view to claiming compensation – a little over 1 per cent of the number entitled to claim.

Your Lawyers said victims of the breach could receive as much as £16,000 each in cases where psychological injury is extreme, while average compensation payments for the distress suffered by those affected could reach £6,000.

Financial losses from the fraud resulting from the hack will also be claimed in addition to compensation for the distress caused to BA’s affected customers.

A total of 185,000 reward booking customers received notice that their personal information and financial details were compromised between April and July last year. A further 380,000 customers on the airline’s app and website were contacted to say their data was breached between August and September.

Details taken included their name, billing address, email address and card payment information. This included card number, expiry date and – in tens of thousands of cases – their card’s CVV security code.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has already fined BA a record £183m over the breach.

Aman Johal, director at Your Lawyers, said: “This is a new low for British Airways, a disgrace. It has let down hundreds of thousands of customers by losing their card payment details. Now it is failing them again by giving everyone affected just 17 weeks to claim rightful compensation for the distress caused.

“Never mind ‘To fly, to serve’, BA should change its tagline to ‘To fly, to swerve responsibility’. I encourage everyone affected to act quickly to ensure they don’t miss out.”

The criticism comes in a torrid summer for BA. This week saw two strike days by pilots in a row over pay, while another walkout is planned for 27 September. IT issues at the beginning of August saw hundreds of flights delayed or cancelled.

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