Robo-debt class action and opt-out notice

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Robo-debt class action and opt-out notice

This page explains class actions and your options if you have received an ‘opt-out notice’ from Centrelink about the robo-debt class action by private law firm Gordon Legal. Victoria Legal Aid is not involved in the robo-debt class action.

What is a class action?

A class action is when a group of people with similar claims are represented in court. The group of people are known as ‘class members’ and they are represented by ‘lead applicants’.

One benefit of a class action is that class members are not individually responsible for legal costs. If the class action is successful and you are entitled to any compensation, the court may order that some of your compensation is used to pay a share of the legal costs.  A class action focuses on the lead applicants, so your personal circumstances are less likely to be closely examined.

Unless you opt out, you are limited (‘bound’) to the outcome of the class action. The court will decide the outcome with a trial or a settlement agreement between the parties. You cannot make the same claim or a related claim in other legal proceedings.

I have received an ‘opt out notice’ from Centrelink – what does it mean?

The Centrelink class action relates to an automated program Centrelink began in 2016 to identify and raise potential Centrelink debts. This program, and the debts created, is often called ‘robo-debt’. In a court case in November 2019, Centrelink accepted that some parts of the program were unlawful. This means that many Centrelink debts were also unlawful.

The class action wants to compensate people affected by robo-debt. Victoria Legal Aid cannot provide advice about the merits or prospects of success of the class action.

People receiving an ‘opt out notice’ have or had a Centrelink debt. We have information that might help you about how to tell if you may have an unlawful robo-debt.

Your two options

If you receive an ‘opt out notice’, you have two options:

  1. remain a class member (by doing nothing)
  2. or opt out by completing the notice and returning it by 29 June 2020

You should consider getting legal advice before opting out.

1. I want to remain a class member for the class action

If you want to remain a class member, you do not need to do anything in response to the opt out notice you have received. 

If you do not complete and return the opt out notice by 29 June 2020, you will remain a class member.  You will then be bound by the outcome of the class action.

If the class action is successful, this means you will be entitled to a share in the benefit, although you may have to satisfy certain conditions before you are eligible.

If the class action is not successful or does not have the outcome you wanted, you will not be able to pursue the same claim, or potentially a similar or related claim, against Centrelink in another legal proceeding.

2. I want to opt out of the class action

If you complete and return the opt out notice by 29 June 2020, you will no longer be a class member for the legal proceeding.

If you opt out, you will not be entitled to any share in the benefit if the class action is successful and you will not be bound by the outcome. You will be able to bring a separate claim against Centrelink if you choose to, provided you do so within the relevant time limit for claims of that type.

If you are considering opting out, you should consider getting legal advice first. You can contact:

More information

For more information about the robo-debt class action you should contact Gordon Legal on 1300 001 356 or visit their website.

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