A ‘paradigm’ case for collective proceedings: the Competition Appeal Tribunal releases its certification judgment in the case brought by Liz Coll against Google

On 31 August 2022, the Competition Appeal Tribunal released its judgment in Elizabeth Helen Coll v Alphabet Inc. and Others [2022] CAT 39, which confirms that consumer champion Liz Coll is authorised to bring an opt-out collective claim against Google for alleged competition law infringements relating to Google’s practices in its Play Store, including its charging of an unlawfully high commission rate of 30% on certain app and in-app purchases.  

This follows the earlier certification of Liz Coll’s claim at a hearing before the Tribunal that occurred on 18 July 2022, the second ever on-the-spot certification of collective proceedings in the UK.

Liz Coll’s claim alleges Google has breached competition law by excluding competition and/or charging an unlawfully high level of commission on digital purchases (including purchases of and within apps).  This may have caused around 19.5 million users of the UK Play Store to be overcharged.  Liz Coll – a consumer tech policy expert with over thirteen years’ experience campaigning for consumers’ rights online – seeks compensation on a collective basis on behalf of affected UK users of Google’s Play Store. 

Following the Tribunal’s determination, Liz Coll now represents all those in the UK who fall within the class definition, unless they choose to opt-out of her claim.

The Tribunal, chaired by Bridget Lucas QC, unanimously held that it was satisfied Liz Coll’s claim is suitable to be brought in collective proceedings, rather than each affected user having to bring their own individual claim. It also held her claim is suitable for an aggregate award of damages (which would then be distributed) rather than individual damages. Dealing with Liz Coll’s claim through a collective action is the “appropriate means” for a “fair and efficient resolution” of the claim, which the Tribunal held is a “paradigm” claim for this type of action. 

The Tribunal also noted that the size of the class allegedly harmed is “significant”, and that it was satisfied proposed class members can be “readily identified”. It continued: “It is unlikely that any other form of litigation would provide a practical or proportionate way of pursuing their claims”.

The Tribunal has not yet decided by when individuals or businesses who are included in the class and would like to be excluded can do so.  Individuals or businesses who meet the criteria of the class, but were not residing or domiciled in the UK on a specific date (which is yet to be determined), will also have to join the claim by a date to be specified by the Tribunal in order to be included. An order from the Tribunal setting out these deadlines and next steps in the claim will follow from the Tribunal shortly.

To register for updates and for further information, please visit: https://www.appstoreclaims.co.uk/Google/Faq