The UK competition tribunal gave group action against Google the green light today, which could cost the tech giant as much as £920m in damages if successful.
The claim alleges Google breached competition law by excluding competition and/or charging an unlawfully high level of commission on digital purchases, including purchases of and within apps, causing around 19.5 million users of the UK Play Store to be overcharged.
The Competition Appeal Tribunal yesterday certified the claim, filed on behalf of almost 20 million consumers and businesses last year, and confirmed that the case may proceed in full on an opt-out collective basis.
Liz Coll, the class representative in the action and consumer champion, will now proceed in full to trial and she called the decision a “vindication of the UK’s changing class actions procedures, which are finally giving Play Store users a fighting chance to hold large corporations to account for breaches of the law.
“We expect that Google will continue to defend this claim vigorously. Powerful companies do not give up their anti-competitive practices easily. We have had to work hard to get this far, drawing on the expertise of competition law experts and economic analysts”, she added.
The Competition and Markets Authority is separately investigating Google’s conduct, and Google is also facing regulatory action in the Netherlands, Australia, South Korea, India and elsewhere.
A Google spokesperson said in a statement: “Android gives people more choice than any other mobile platform in deciding which apps and app stores they use — in fact most Android phones come preloaded with more than one app store. We compete vigorously and fairly for developers and consumers – 97% of developers on Google Play don’t pay any service fee at all, which means their apps are free to consumers. As a result of recent changes, 99% of developers now qualify for a service fee of 15% or less.
This lawsuit ignores the benefits and choice Android and Google Play provide as well as the competitive market in which we operate.”