March 21, 2023

Google and its parent Alphabet Inc. were sued in a UK court over alleged antitrust abuses in a group claim by 130,000 businesses that argues the Tech giant’s approach to advertising that may have cost companies billions of pounds in lost revenue.

The claim, filed at London’s UK Competition Appeal Tribunal on Wednesday, accuses Google and its parent of abusing their dominant position in online advertising and “earning super-profits for itself at the expense of the tens of thousands of publishers of websites and mobile apps in the UK.”

The case follows criticism that regulatory penalties — such as a €150 million ($155.5 million) French fine for mistreating companies using its online advertising platform — aren’t enough to stop the US Tech giant’s anticompetitive behavior, said Toby Starr, a partner at law firm Humphries Kerstetter, who represents some of the claimants. The UK suit is being run alongside a European Union claim expected next year in the Netherlands.

“None of these regulatory actions will do anything to compensate the UK publishers of thousands of websites and mobile apps who have lost billions in advertising revenue because of Google’s actions,” Starr said in a statement. “The only way to recoup these losses is through a competition class action.”

A spokesperson for Google said the lawsuit is “speculative and opportunistic” and that the firm works constructively with publishers across Europe.

Britain’s opt-out class-action regime finally sparked into life last year after new laws allowed US-style claims under competition law. Potential UK damages, which are based on estimates from possible losses could run into the low tens of billions, according to the claimants.

Opt-out class-action style lawsuits mean someone impacted doesn’t have to be involved in the case to be included or to get a share in any eventual award.

The UK challenge would add to the scrutiny Google already faces in the EU. While Google’s antitrust run-ins with the European Commission have cost the company billions of euros, the 2019 decision by the Autorite de la concurrence was its first such fine in France.

–With assistance from Katharine Gemmell.

Photograph: The logo of Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., sits on an Apple Inc. iPhone smartphone in this arranged photograph in London, UK, on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. Photo credit: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Copyright 2022 Bloomberg.


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