Google Play Store class action funding revealed • The Register
Google has partly won a legal bid to uncover the budget behind a not quite class action suit to sue it for £920million at the UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal.
Revealing that Elizabeth Coll’s lawyers have £15.4m to take on the world’s biggest ad tech company, judges have rejected Google’s bid to reveal how much the class action group should pay these lawyers they were winning.
The decision sheds some more light on the world of for-profit litigation in London against mainly US-based Big Tech companies.
Coll’s underlying case is broadly a mirror image of Epic Games’ lawsuit against Google over the Android giant’s 30% cut in app revenue it derives from user payments made in Google Play Store apps. She is the public face of a lawsuit seeking to extract £920 million from Google over alleged anti-competitive behavior and is suing on behalf of 19 million UK-based Android users. Such lawsuits are increasingly common in the UK at the moment.
As summarized by Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) judges Bridget Lucas QC, Tim Frazer and Professor Michael Waterson, Google argued, unsuccessfully, that:
The CAT denied Google’s request to know Coll’s attorneys’ claims insurance premiums and the specific level of attorneys’ success fees. Disclosure, CAT said, would give Google an unfair advantage in this case.
All of the ongoing class litigation in the UK against Big Tech is being brought on the basis that the commercial funder can make tens or hundreds of millions of pounds in profit from damages. If they win, a significant portion of these damages is collected by the lawyers as success fees. Anything left over after the funder and lawyers take their cut is divided among those who would have been harmed.
First data protection, now competition law
Google’s claim in this case followed a similar legal line of thought in the former Sueball Lloyd v Google “Safari Workaround”, where at an early stage Google’s attorney clarified exactly which for-profit funder was behind the case and how much he was trying to claim from the adtech monolith.
Ultimately, Lloyd and his backer Therium Litigation Funding IC failed in the Supreme Court, setting a precedent that made it much more difficult for for-profit funders to use UK litigation law. data protection against companies based abroad.
Fans of these class lawsuits say they are the only way for ordinary people to receive damages from abuses by Big Tech; thus, they say, government fines only enrich the treasury instead of properly compensating those who have been wronged. A well-known commercial litigation funder, Therium, was behind the Post Office’s civil lawsuit over abuses of criminal law by the public company by punishing innocent employees for failures of its Horizon inventory system. manufactured by Fujitsu.
Opponents say it is morally wrong for for-profit funders to claim they are fighting for the rights of oppressed ordinary people when in reality they hope to make a profit for investors; notoriously, the postmasters in the post office lawsuit received an £11.5million share of the £57.75million settlement to be shared among 550 claimants. Meanwhile, the CAT is filling up with cases based on Section 47B of the Competition Act 1998.
Coll has not yet been certified as an official class representative in Coll vs. Google, which is still at an early stage of the procedure. The case continues. ®