LONDON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Yesterday, the Competition Appeal Tribunal released his judgment which confirms that consumer champion Liz Coll is authorized to bring an opt-out class action against Google for alleged infringements relating to the Google Play Store.
Liz Coll’s claim alleges that Google violated antitrust law by excluding competition and/or charging an unlawfully high level of commission on digital purchases in their Play Store (including app purchases and in-app purchases ), causing an estimated 19.5 million UK Google Play Store users to overload. Liz Coll – a consumer technology policy expert with more than thirteen years’ experience campaigning for online consumer rights – is seeking collective compensation for affected users of the Google Play Store in the UK. Following the Tribunal’s decision, Liz Coll now represents all people in the UK who fall within the class definition, unless they choose to opt out of her claim.
The claim can now go to trial. This is the latest challenge to Google’s position of strength and builds on the global review of Google’s practices in the Play Store. The UK Competition and Markets Authority is conducting a separate investigation into Google’s practices, as are authorities in the Netherlands, Australia, South Korea, India, etc.
Liz Coll’s claim is the second of its kind this year to be certified on the spot by the Competition Appeal Tribunal, after a similar claim filed by Dr Rachael Kent, relating to Apple’s allegedly abusive practices in the ‘App Store, was allowed to sue in May.
For more details on the claim and to check if you or your company are potentially included in the claim, visit: https://www.appstoreclaims.co.uk/Google.
Liz Coll’s request and the judgment rendered yesterday
Most Android users download their apps through the Google Play Store. The claim alleges that users were overcharged when purchasing apps from the Google Play Store and during certain in-app purchases, including those for top-listed apps such as popular games.
When users spend money in the Google Play Store, often only a portion goes back to app developers. A significant portion – usually around 30% – goes to Google. Developers who publish their apps to the Google Play Store are generally required to use Google’s own Play Store payment processing system and cannot avoid Google’s 30% fee when they do so, which, according to Liz Coll, is unnecessarily high and therefore illegal. Google also discourages app developers from distributing Android apps through alternatives to the Google Play Store, by imposing a series of contractual and technical restrictions on their ability to do so. This limits the ability of app developers to offer lower prices. In turn, users of Google’s Play Store, who otherwise would have paid lower prices but for Google’s conduct, are harmed.
Liz Coll – representing the category of injured users in the UK – argues that Google’s conduct is illegal. Google can impose its high fees on Google Play Store users due to its powerful position as the licensor of the Android operating system and its control of the Google Play Store, where Google sets the rules.
Shortly before the hearing of Liz Coll’s request to represent affected users of the Google Play Store, Google elected to no longer oppose the request. Google was therefore not represented at the July 2022 hearing, during which the Court immediately granted Liz Coll’s request. A Court order setting out timelines and next steps for the claim will follow shortly.
The Tribunal, chaired by Bridget Lucas QC, ruled unanimously that it was satisfied that Liz Coll’s claim could be brought in collective proceedings, rather than each affected consumer or business having to bring their own claim individual. He also ruled that his claim was appropriate for an overall award of damages (which would then be distributed) rather than individual damages. Addressing Liz Coll’s claim through class action is the “appropriate means” for a “fair and effective resolutionof the request, which, according to the Tribunal, is a “paradigmclaim for this type of action.
The Tribunal also noted that the size of the allegedly injured class is “important“, and that he was confident that the proposed band members can be”easily identifiable”. He continued: “Another form of litigation is unlikely to provide a practical or proportionate way to pursue their claims.”.
Liz Collthe representative of the class in the action, said:
“Yesterday’s judgment cements the on-site decision of the Competition Appeal Tribunal in July to allow the complaint I filed on behalf of UK consumers and businesses to continue to a full trial.
“The Tribunal further reiterated that it made the right decision in July, and this should be welcomed by Android and Google Play Store users across the UK, who are now on the verge of to obtain the redress which I say is due to them.
“Users of Google’s Play Store should be encouraged by yesterday’s judgment, which also represents an important step in the evolution of class action litigation in the UK. It is now truly possible to challenge large companies that infringe competition law and to obtain compensation for individuals.
“For more than a year, Google has fought hard against this claim, and we hope it will continue to do so. They have taken advantage of the dominance of the systems used by half of UK smartphone users. Yes, we are in conflict with one of the most powerful companies in the world, but with the help of an excellent team of legal, industrial and economic experts, we are confident in our position.
“This claim is strong. The Tribunal definitely described it as a “paradigm” example of collective action. No other type of claim could effectively challenge Google’s illegal and unjustifiable imposition of a 30% charge on so many Play Store users. I look forward to pleading the case on behalf of UK Google Play Store users at trial.
Group members: who is eligible
According to the claim, any UK Android smartphone or tablet user who has purchased paid apps, paid subscriptions or made other in-app purchases in the UK version of the Google Play Store at any time since October 1, 2015 potentially entitled to compensation. of Google for its anti-competitive practices. Purchases must have been made on an Android smartphone or tablet that had the Google Play Store pre-installed.
All these buyers are automatically included in the category of applicants. Device users can check their eligibility for compensation by logging into their Play Store or Google account and verifying their “Payments and subscriptions” Where “Order history” and the country indicated under “Account and device preferences”.
The Court has not yet decided when individuals or companies who are included in the class and wish to be excluded can do so. Persons or companies who meet the class criteria but were not resident or domiciled in the UK on a specific date (to be determined) will also need to attach the claim on a date to be specified by the Court. A Court order establishing these timelines and next steps for the claim will follow shortly.
For any updates and for more information, please visit: https://www.appstoreclaims.co.uk/Google/Faq.
Additional information for applicants
The legal claim applies to purchases of popular apps on Android smartphones and tablets, which require payment at the point of download, subscription payments or enable in-app purchases of digital goods or services. It does not apply to applications providing physical goods or services that will be consumed outside of the application. These include Deliveroo and Uber, which are not required to use Google’s payment system or pay Google the disputed 30% commission.
The affected app purchasers, on whose behalf the class action is being brought, will not pay any fees or costs to participate in this lawsuit, which is being funded by Vannin Capital, a global litigation funder. The action is insured, which means that class members have no financial risk associated with the claim.
Liz Coll is represented by Lesley Hannah, Luke Streatfeild, Sofie Edwards, Kio Gwilliam, Anna Stellardi and Antonio Delussu of law firm Hausfeld & Co. LLP, with solicitors Ronit Kreisberger QC and Michael Armitage of Monckton Chambers, Mark Hoskins QC, Jennifer MacLeod and Matthew Kennedy of Brick Court Chambers, Tristan Jones of Blackstone Chambers and George McDonald of 4 New Square. Liz Coll also commissioned expert economist Derek Holt from AlixPartners UK LLP.
Liz Coll is also advised on the claim by an advisory group with expertise and experience in competition and consumer law and payments regulation. This group is made up of Sir Gerald Barling, former president of the Competition Appeal Tribunal; Dr Christine Riefa, academic specializing in consumer law; and Aidene Walsh, executive director of Banking Competition Remedies and non-executive director of the payments systems regulator.
Notes for Editors
About Hausfeld & Co. LLP
Hausfeld is a leading international competition law firm with significant expertise in all aspects of class actions and class claims.