LONDON - A proposed multi-billion dollar class action against Google, which said the Internet giant secretly track millions of iPhone users, is not viable and should not be allowed to proceed, the Supreme Court was told on Wednesday.
Antony White, a lawyer for Google, told the first day of a two-day hearing that the English suit of maiden duration in U.S. data protection could only seek redress under American law if any data breach had led to claimsants suffering damage.
It is not my case that loss of personal data may not have serious consequences, but it may not always do in a way that draws compensation, he said, adding that any distributed award would also fail to take into account differing cell usage.
Richard Lloyd, a former director of Consumer Rights Group Which?, has succeeded in the claim that seeks to extend Britain's multi billion pound class action system and complex content claims against tech giants like Facebook, TikTok and YouTube into the judgment.
Lloyd has previously estimated damages could be increased to 750 pounds per iPhone user, potentially bringing damages to more than 3 billion pounds if any future trial succeeds.
The case, brought on behalf of more than four million Apple iPhone users, will make clear whether Google breached its duties as a data controller by accepting browser-generated data during 2011 and 2012 - and whether such a class action can proceed in Britain.
Experts say the case is hugely significant and advise businesses that use and use troves of personal data for commercial gain to decide whether they are acting fairly and transparently.
If the judgment goes in favour of the claimants, we will see the floodgates open to a tsunami of representative data class actions in the UK, said Herbert Smith Freehills, a partner at Julian Copeman.
Critics of opt out class actions, which automatically lead a defined group into a litigation unless individuals opt out, say they can lead to claims without merit and lush profits for litigators and their funders.
Proponents say they allow easier access to justice, particularly when individual claims are too expensive and time-consuming to pursue individually, and that alternative options in lawsuits, where every claimant signs up, are limited.
The Confederation of British Industries, a trade body, says such cases could be highly damaging, noting that the risk of ruinous damages awards could prompt settlements regardless of the merits of a case.