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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Google sued by 130,000 alleged victims of its ad dominance

 (Jason Alden/Bloomberg)
By Stephanie Bodoni Bloomberg

Google and its parent Alphabet Inc. were sued in a U.K. 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 U.K. 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 U.K.”

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 U.K. 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 U.K. 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 U.K. 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 U.K. 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.