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Class action ‘dampening’ likely to follow UK Supreme Court ruling
Pic: Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

11 Nov 2021 / tech Print

‘Dampening’ of class actions after ruling by top UK court

The UK Supreme Court has rejected a class action privacy claim against Google, brought by former Which? director and consumer-rights campaigner Richard Lloyd.

The action sought billions in damages on the basis of privacy harms, with lead claimant Lloyd represented by claimant litigation boutique Milberg London, backed by third-party litigation funder Therium. 

Lloyd’s team argued that Stg £750 in damages should be given to each of the four million Apple iPhone users in England and Wales, because their internet activity was secretly tracked by Google between 2011 and 2012.

The tech giant then used the data to push targeted adverts at users, based on their browsing history, the claimants argued.

In a unanimous ruling, the UK Supreme Court dismissed the argument that the loss of control of personal data has an intrinsic value capable of compensation.

The court ruled that each claimant must establish that they had personally suffered some form of material damage as a result of the privacy breaches.

It also held that such alleged unlawful processing by Google of personal data must be proven.

Legal test

Court-watchers compared the trial to last December's Merricks v Mastercard as a legal test for collective proceedings.

The ruling on individual proofs of damage indicate that a class action is unlikely to be financially viable for either legal advisers or funders, observers believe.

Pinsents disputes partner David Barker, who led the team acting for Google, predicted  “a more general dampening of the claims market in this space”. 

Similar claims against TikTok, Facebook and Marriott Hotels are pending, but Pinsents believes that funder appetite for pursuing them will dissipate, in light of the Google ruling. 

British IP and tech lawyer David Cran said that the Supreme Court's judgment would be warmly welcomed by data controllers.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland