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Legal fees in British Airways data breach case hit £1,000 to £3,400 per person

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People who signed up for the British Airways data breach lawsuit via PGMBM, the biggest of the law firms taking part, received their settlement notices yesterday.

We are not allowed to disclose the amount but it was peanuts compared to the huge sums that had been suggested. Here is a press story from January 2021 where one of the law firms involved is suggesting that claimants would receive ‘an average’ of £6,000, implying many would get more. Some chance.

What is not confidential is the bill run up by the lawyers. The size of this bill gives an indication of the scale of the damages it was assumed British Airways would pay, and implies that someone did seriously believe the £6,000 figure.

Legal fees in British Airways data breach case exceed £1,000 per person

The level of legal fees charged varies, oddly. I have seen a Category 1 letter, where there was evidence of fraud based on the leak, allocated over £3,400 of legal costs. Another person in Category 1 was allocated just £1,000.

For a Category 2A claim, where there was no proof that the accessed data was used, the legal fees seem to be around £1,100. On top of this, there were expenses of over £150.

Actual expenses were far higher. As we reported back in February, the lawyers lost a court case where they attempted to include the costs of their TV and social media advertising campaigns in their reclaimable expenses.

PGMBM claimed that it had spent £443,000 on advertising so far and intended to spend another £557,000 before the case was heard. At the High Court, Mr Justice Saini decided that this was general marketing expenditure and was not reclaimable from the client. You can read more in the Law Society Gazette here.

Luckily for claimants, their exposure to legal fees and expenses is capped at 35% of the compensation received.

Without going into numbers, 35% of the settlement amount – at least for those in Category 2 who could not prove that their data was stolen – isn’t going to make much of a dent in the £1,000 to £3,400 of legal fees once the third party expenses and the £1m advertising budget is paid. Those who signed up early were promised 100% of their settlement, meaning even less for the lawyers.

Legal fees in British Airways data breach case exceed £1,000 per person

PGMBM did say that British Airways has made a ‘contribution’ to these costs so there may be some profit for the lawyers at the end of the day. It certainly isn’t a bonanza though.

British Airways may have played this right. It made a settlement offer which was a fraction of the numbers that had been banded around when the lawsuits were launched. There was a real risk that, if the case had gone to trial, the judge would have decided that BA’s offer was reasonable, that the lawyers should have accepted and that the case should be thrown out.

At the very least, the case would probably have proceeded with a final settlement being made at the offer BA suggested, and with the lawyers being saddled with additional legal fees.

At the end of the day, the case has not been a great result for anyone involved.

Looking at online comment elsewhere, you had people originally claiming they were taking part in the action “purely as a point of principle” before turning angry when it turned out that the proceeds were going to get them a weekend in a Holiday Inn rather than a week-long five star holiday. Meanwhile, BA is hit by a cash outlay at the same time as it has to decide whether to make more redundancies, or otherwise start paying staff not to work, as the end of furlough approaches next month.

In the meantime, keep an eye on your social media feeds for ads asking you to join the easyJet data breach case. A quick Google search for “easyjet data breach claim” brings up various firms claiming you can get £2,000 by signing up. I wouldn’t bet on it.

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Comments (144)

  • Terri says:

    My view is the lawyers made it possible for the individuals to take on BA to achieve some compensation for BA losing data to hackers through inadequate IT systems. BA would have slammed the door shut in the face of any single person asking for compensation.

    Lawyers are in the business of making money – just like BA. If businesses cut corners to increase profit at the expense of customers security then lawyers are there to assist bringing some redress.

    Although eligible, I decided not to join the group action even though the amex I cancelled after the breach was disclosed had 2 attempted fraudulent transactions. That was my choice. I am happy those that did sign up have come away with a payout.

  • Bobby says:

    Is it too late to claim?

    • Rob says:

      Interesting question. Nothing stops another law firm starting a new case, on the (sensible) assumption that BA will settle for the same amount.

      The problem is that 35% of not a lot x 10,000 isn’t a lot of money if they need to spend £1m on advertising to get the 10,000 people.

      However, it would be a very quick process – BA doesn’t really have a leg to stand on – so some firm may consider it worthwhile.

      • Dayle says:

        Would it be worth trying with BA direct, knowing that they are at fault?

  • the_real_a says:

    If the claim had been thrown out in court would the applicants be on the hook for the legal fees?

  • Lord Doncaster says:

    Those of you in 2a who were “happy” with your amount…were there other passengers travelling with you on the same booking reference?

  • BlueThroughCrimp says:

    I was in the group who lost data, plus I had an attempted transaction on my BA Amex, but how to prove it was from the BA Hack?
    I didn’t bother joining in the class action, as I did stop any fraudulent activity, didn’t lose any money, and Amex were very good.

    Doesn’t mean I’m not annoyed with BA’s poor data handling, but I’d rather not feather the nests of the ambulance chasers.

    • Kathryn Daniels says:

      Same here, I had some broadband in US charged to my Amex, thankfully I spotted the transaction on my statement, Amex refunded and my card details were changed. No loss…

  • Mikeact says:

    Get 5p off per litre, when you swap 300 Nectar points at Esso

    Might be useful for someone.

    • Peter K says:

      Discussed a few times previously. 30 litres to break even, even assuming fuel same price at Esso as elsewhere.

  • GP says:

    Sorry Rob, but I do think that this article today was written in poor taste. In fact I think that your coverage generally of this topic has been in poor taste right from the outset.

    I don’t know what your motivation for this journalistic approach is – perhaps you have a ‘relationship’ with BA to maintain, I don’t know – but you’re just sneering at claimants IMO.

    I am happy with the outcome; I think it’s fair all round for both me and BA. Without boring everyone with the details, this was a significant pain in the proverbial to sort out. I’m sure others feel the same.

    • Tim says:


      • Rob says:

        Fair enough. However, remember that I put my money where my mouth is and did not claim for myself or my wife, and this was back in the days when we were promised £6,000 each 🙂

        • Farid says:

          No judgement here but you obviously can’t bite the hand that feeds you…

          • Rob says:

            There is very little chance that BA would have spotted my claim, and zero chance they would spot my wife’s as she has never uses her married name for anything – not passport, not banking, not socially, not her job and certainly not her BA account.

        • GP says:

          I don’t ever remember being promised any specific amount at all, but perhaps others were. Of course, I read some of the numbers that were being talked about but always thought they were a bit on the high end, except perhaps for those who might have been very badly impacted.

          • Adam says:

            Me Neither. Remember a newspaper article stating crazy money, although I didn’t see it. PGMBM we’re very quick to email saying the article was hugely misleading and numbers were unattainable.

            They did say that if they win in court it could by up to £2000. A settlement was never going to as much as a win in court so overall, I feel they managed my expectations well. But given my expectations were very low to begin with, that wasn’t hard.

    • Dave says:

      Speaking in general terms, I wonder what was such a ‘pain in the proverbial’?

      Amex website is about two or three clicks to send you a new card or dispute a transaction.

      • johnny_c-l says:

        Multiple texts from Amex over a period of months advising of refused transactions and to call them because someone was trying to test the presumably leaked card details.

        For me it was a (granted, very small) hassle to deal with this, and I’m happy with the compensation amount received. Couldn’t care less how much the lawyers skimmed off the top, the end result is better than I expected.

      • GP says:

        I’m not sure how much detail I can or should go in to, so I won’t, but it certainly was not something that was resolved by “two or three clicks”.

  • TT says:

    I did do this as a point of principle. It makes no sense for companies to get fined and the money go to the government rather than to the people who were inconvenienced. In my case, my card was used fraudulently after the breach.

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