Google is facing a damages claim of up to €25 billion in the latest class action against it in Europe.
Two claims are being brought in the Netherlands and the U.K. over the tech giant’s alleged misuse of advertising technology, following the French Competition Authority’s 2021 finding that Google had misused ‘adtech’ to benefit ad servers it owned.
The collective actions are being brought on behalf of online publishers by a range of EU and U.K. firms and are funded by litigation funder Harbour. The French Competition Authority’s investigation led to Google agreeing to pay a €220 million fine and make changes to its online advertising model.
The €25 billion damages now sought would cover compensation of the alleged lost advertising revenue that online publishers and websites would normally gain from their advertising space.
The U.K. action is brought by a team of lawyers from Brussels-based boutique firm Geradin Partners and London-based boutique litigation firm Humphries Kerstetter. Ronit Kreisberger QC and Julian Gregory from London-based Monckton Chambers, and David Wingfield and Niamh Cleary from Fountain Court Chambers are also advising.
The Geradin Partners team will be led by founding partner Damien Geradin in Brussels and Stijn Huijts and counsel David Gallagher in London. Meanwhile, Toby Starr will lead the Humphries Kerstatter team, along with counsel Katie Hotham.
Starr said: “This important claim will represent a class of victims of Google’s anti-competitive conduct in ad tech who have collectively lost an estimated £7 billion. This includes news websites up and down the country with large daily readerships as well as the thousands of small business owners who depend on advertising revenue – be it from their fishing website, food blog, football fanzine or other online content they have spent time creating and publishing”. This is the latest legal case faced by Google after an already rocky month. Earlier in September, the firm was ordered by South Korea to pay $50 million for not properly informing users about how they collected their information. Also in September, Google lost an appeal against a landmark €4.3 billion antitrust fine for having abused its dominant position in the mobile internet space.
A Google spokesperson said: “Google works constructively with publishers across Europe — our advertising tools, and those of our many adtech competitors, help millions of websites and apps fund their content, and enable businesses of all sizes to effectively reach new customers. These services adapt and evolve in partnership with those same publishers. This lawsuit is speculative and opportunistic. When we receive the complaint, we’ll fight it vigorously.”