The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) has for the first time consolidated two opt-out collective claims, brought by online publishers against Google and valued as worth up to £13.6bn, in what has been described as a “milestone” for the sector.
The move spared the CAT from having to decide which of the collective claims brought by Charles Arthur and Claudio Pollack was most suitable to be certified and proceed to trial.
Martyn Day, co-president of the Collective Redress Lawyers Association, said the decision represented “a milestone for the UK’s opt-out regime”.
Mr Arthur and Mr Pollack have incorporated a special purpose vehicle, Ad Tech Collective Action LLP, following the ruling to replace them as class representatives in the consolidated claim.
They are partners in the LLP together with consumer rights champion Kate Wellington, who is also chief executive of the Costs Lawyer Standards Board.
Mr Day, co-founder of Leigh Day, commented: “It is good to see that the prospective representatives have come together for the benefit of the class members and we would anticipate that this is a model which, as the regime develops, might be adopted by further representatives in future.”
The men previously filed separate claims, each seeking to bring an opt-out collective claim on behalf of a class of UK publishers of websites and apps who claim to have suffered loss due to Google’s abuse of its dominant position in the advertising technology (or ‘ad tech’) market”.
Transatlantic firm Hausfeld is representing Ad Tech Collective Action LLP alongside City firm Humphries Kerstetter and Geradin Partners, based in London and Brussels.
Hausfeld said that, as well as removing the need for CAT to choose, consolidation brought together “the strengths of each individual claim”, the “combined expertise” of their legal advisers and saved “time and costs which would otherwise be spent on determining which claim was to proceed and instead focusing the efforts of the parties on bringing the case against Google”.
The consolidated claim will now proceed to a certification hearing in January.
The LLP has secured third-party litigation funding from CF ADT Ltd, which is related to US investment management firm Fortress.
Hausfeld said Google’s conduct in the ad tech market had “come under scrutiny in various jurisdictions” and the company was fined €220m by the French competition authority in 2021.
The UK Competition and Markets Authority, the European Commission and US Department of Justice had “commenced investigations into or legal proceedings regarding Google’s conduct in ad tech”.
Luke Streatfeild, a partner at Hausfeld, Toby Starr, a partner at Humphries Kerstetter and Damien Geradin, founding partner of Geradin Partners, said in a joint statement that the CAT had “set an important precedent for the UK collective proceedings regime” by consolidating the claims.
“Publishers continue to lose significant revenue from advertising as a result of Google’s conduct and have done so for nearly a decade.
“This claim, which is made at no cost to publishers, is the best way for them to obtain proper compensation.”