In Spain, class actions are allowed and are regulated by the Spanish Civil Procedure Act (arts. 6, 7, 11, 13, 15, 76, 78, 221, 222 and 519). Spain goes further than many other European jurisdictions towards permitting representative actions, primarily in the realm of consumer protection.
Spanish law allows representative actions to be brought by both consumer organisations and groups of consumers (provided the group of consumers includes the majority of those affected) where those who have suffered damage are identified or easily identifiable. It also allows for certain consumer organisations to bring a claim where the potential claimants are unidentified or unidentifiable - actions of this type are technically more complex.
A much wider group of entities are then able to bring actions where the victims are identified or easily identifiable, meaning that these actions are more common than those where potential claimants are unidentified or unidentifiable. However, it is not always easy to identify the potential claimants in order to bring the former type of action. Both kinds of actions can only be brought in the interests of consumers, though "consumer" has a wide interpretation. In both cases, damages can be awarded.
The class action mechanism in Spain is “opt-in”. According to art. 15 of the Spanish Civil Procedure Act, announcements in the media will be used to call those who have suffered loss to assert their individual rights or interests in proceedings lodged by associations or entities constituted for the protection of the rights and interests of consumers and users, or by groups affected. The Public Prosecution Service shall be a party to these proceedings when social interest justifies it.
The Spanish Civil Procedure Act does not set out any particular mechanisms for the assessment of damages or the distribution of settlement or judgment sums.
The entities authorised pursuant to European Community Regulations can act in defence of collective interests and the diffuse interests of consumers and users, but the publicity and intervention rules stipulated in art. 15 (referred to above) do not apply to this kind of action.
The Public Prosecution Service can initiate any action in defence of the interests of consumers and users.
In Spain, the burden of proof in consumer protection cases is normally reversed, so falls on the defendant.
However, like most European jurisdictions, punitive damages are not available, there is no general disclosure requirement, and the loser usually pays the winner's costs. It is possible to request a preliminary proceeding in order to specify the members of the group of each aggrieved party, if easily determined, and in that way better manage the litigation. In such cases, the court will take the appropriate measures to verify the members of the group. Other preliminary measures available are, for example, to require the defendant to exhibit the object in his possession that shall be referred to at the trial.
The trial will be heard by a judge; there is no trial by jury in the civil system.