Publishers and advertisers sue Google for lost revenue

googleMedia owners and advertisers are joining forces to launch legal action against Google in both the UK and the Netherlands that alleges the tech giant is abusing its power in the digital advertising market, leading to billions of pounds in ad revenue being lost.

The British claim, set to be filed at the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal, will seek to recover compensation for lost revenue from the sale of advertising space on the websites of news publishers and any site funded by online advertising.

The Dutch claim is open to publishers affected by Google’s actions, with the firm behind the litigation Harbour saying funding is available for both lawsuits.

Damien Geradin, of the Belgian law firm Geradin Partners, said: “Publishers, including local and national news media who play a vital role in our society, have long been harmed by Google’s anticompetitive conduct.

“It is time that Google owns up to its responsibilities and pays back the damages it has caused to this important industry. That is why today we are announcing these actions across two jurisdictions to obtain compensation for EU and UK publishers.”

UK law firm Humphries Kerstetter is planning to bring its case over the next month, although the process could take many years to reach a conclusion. The UK Competition & Markets Authority is also investigating Google’s adtech market domination.

Toby Starr, a partner at UK legal firm Humphries Kerstetter, said: “This important claim will represent a class of victims of Google’s anti-competitive conduct in ad tech who have collectively lost an estimated £7bn.

“This includes news websites up and down the country with large daily readerships as well as the thousands of small business owners who depend on advertising revenue – be it from their fishing website, food blog, football fanzine or other online content they have spent time creating and publishing.”

The UK claim will be “opt out”, meaning that affected parties will be automatically treated as part of the claim, while the EU claim will be lodged in the Netherlands will be “opt in”, meaning would-be claimants need to apply to join the suit. Starr said he expected “many thousands” of parties in the UK to be part of the claim.

The combined lawsuits are seeking total compensation that, according to some estimates, could reach €25bn.

In a statement, Google said: “Google works constructively with publishers across Europe – our advertising tools, and those of our many adtech competitors, help millions of websites and apps fund their content, and enable businesses of all sizes to effectively reach new customers. These services adapt and evolve in partnership with those same publishers. This lawsuit is speculative and opportunistic. When we receive the complaint, we’ll fight it vigorously.”

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