January 27, 2023

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Google is facing a €25 billion lawsuit in the UK and EU over online advertising

Google is facing a €25bn (£21.6bn) lawsuit in the UK and EU over allegations of anti-competitive behavior in the digital advertising market.

According to The Guardian, the tech giant, which is a key player in the online advertising market as well as a major force in online search, is accused of abusing its power in the online advertising market by coordinating the sale of space online advertising between “publishers” and advertising agencies.

“Publications, including local and national news media, which play a vital role in our society, have long been affected by Google’s anti-competitive behavior. It’s time for Google to take responsibility and pay for the damage it has caused to this important industry. That is why today we are announcing these actions in two jurisdictions to obtain compensation for EU and UK publishers.– said Damien Geradin, from the Belgian law firm Geradin Partners.

UK law firm Humphries Kerstetter plans to bring a case to the Competition Appeal Tribunal next month, although the process could take several years to reach a conclusion.

The UK competition watchdog is also investigating Google’s influence in the digital advertising technology market.

Toby Starr, a partner at Humphries Kerstetter, said the lawsuit – which seeks to recover lost advertising revenue due to Google’s possible anti-competitive behavior over the years – would not only benefit news sites.

This major legal claim will also represent a certain class of victims of Google’s anti-competitive behavior in the ad tech space, which has lost around £7 billion. That means news sites across the country with large daily readerships, as well as the thousands of small business owners who depend on advertising revenue — whether it’s their fishing site, foodie blog, football zines or other online content that they wasted time creating and publishing.” – says the lawyer.

The UK claim will be ‘opt-out’, meaning that affected parties will automatically be treated as part of the claim, while the EU claim will be filed in the Netherlands and be ‘opt-in’, meaning that potential plaintiffs must formally apply to join the lawsuit. Toby Starr also says he expects “many thousands” of UK civil parties to be part of the process.

These combined lawsuits could yield a total compensation that, according to estimates, could reach 25 billion euros. The lawsuits are funded by litigation firms in the UK and the Netherlands, who get a commission when they win a case.

Contacted by The Guardian, Google referred to its statement about the investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA):

“Advertising tools from Google, as well as from many competitors, help websites and apps monetize their content and help businesses of all sizes reach customers. Google’s tools alone have supported an estimated £55 billion of economic activity for more than 700,000 UK businesses, and when publications choose to use our advertising services, they keep most of the revenue. We will continue to work with the CMA to answer their questions and share details about how our systems work.”

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