14 Jan 2022

Quinn Emanuel to lead £2.3bn class action against Facebook over market dominance

Claim lodged on behalf of 44m UK users over 'unfair' trading terms and prices

Quinn Emanuel partner Kate Vernon

Quinn Emanuel Urqhardt & Sullivan is to lead a £2.3bn collective damages claim against social media giant Facebook, now known as Meta, lodged on behalf of more than 40 million consumers over the tech giant’s dominant market position in the UK. 

The opt-out collective damages claim is being brought in the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) by Dr. Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, a competition law academic and market abuse practitioner, on behalf of around 44m UK consumers who have suffered loss as a result of Facebook’s ‘unfair’ user trading terms and prices, according to a statement released on Friday. 

The suit claims Facebook made billions of pounds by subjecting users to unfair terms and conditions that required individuals to share personal data to access its apps including Instagram and WhatsApp between 2015 and 2019. 

Financial backing for the claim is being provided by London-based litigation funder Innsworth, with a team from Quinn Emanuel led by UK partner and competition litigation head Kate Vernon set to advise Lovdahl Gormsen in the matter. 

Vernon’s team will be working alongside counsel Ronit Kreisberger QC and Nikolaus Grubeck of Monckton Chambers as well as Greg Adey of One Essex Court. 

“Facebook made billions of pounds from UK consumers by only permitting access to its network in exchange for control of its users’ extensive personal data,” Vernon said. 

Vernon further described Meta’s policies as a “clear abuse” of its “dominant position” in the social network market, calling for UK consumers to be compensated for the company’s “egregious” behaviour. 

“The price extracted is unfairly high given the commercial value of the user data collected but is presented by Facebook on a ‘take it or leave it basis’ with zero monetary compensation for users,” she said. 

A Meta spokesperson told The Guardian: “People access our service for free. They choose our services because we deliver value for them and they have meaningful control of what information they share on Meta’s platforms and who with. We have invested heavily to create tools that allow them to do so.”

Quinn Emanuel previously led former financial ombudsman Walter Merricks to victory in the UK Supreme Court in a ruling that allowed Merricks to forge ahead with a £14bn claim before the CAT over Mastercard’s alleged overcharging of 46 million UK consumers between 1996 and 2008. 

Facebook is facing a similar consumer class action in the US and is subject to international scrutiny regarding its dominance of the social media market, including an antitrust suit from the Federal Trade Commission in the US that could force it to sell Instagram and WhatsApp. 

"In a free and fair market, competition should lead to lower prices and increased quality,” Lovdahl Gormsen said. “The bigger a company is in the market, the less choice we have, no matter what else they’re doing. Facebook has exploited its dominance at its users’ cost."

UK lawyers predicted the take off of the UK’s class action regime last August when the the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) allowed the claim against Mastercard to proceed. Hausfeld is advising on claims against Apple – over alleged App Store overcharging – and Google, over Play Store charges.

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