Google won its bid to dismiss a data privacy lawsuit filed on behalf of millions of iPhone users, after the U.K.’s top court said the tech giant couldn’t be served with a class action suit.
The case, which sought billions of pounds, is “doomed to fail,” the Supreme Court unanimously ruled Wednesday. The group who brought the suit, known as Google You Owe Us, accused the tech giant of breaching its duties by collecting and using browser generated information over a period of months between 2011 and 2012.
The decision will come as a relief for the tech giant which, if the case had been allowed to proceed, could have been faced with a damages bill of around 3 billion pounds ($4 billion).
“In order to recover compensation for any given individual, it would be necessary to show both that Google made some unlawful use of personal data relating to that individual and that individual suffered some damage as a result,” Judge George Leggatt said in the ruling.
Since Alphabet Inc.’s Google is headquartered in the U.S., the group needed permission to serve the company with the suit in the country, which the court also rejected. A lower court had previously sided with Google but appeals judges overturned the ruling in 2019. Google You Owe Us said it was “bitterly disappointed” with the result.
“The Supreme Court has failed to do enough to protect the public from Google and other big tech firms who break the law,” lead claimant Richard Lloyd, said.
The ruling also sets an important U.K. legal precedent for future class-action suits. While such cases, where a single person can claim compensation for harm done to a group of potentially millions of people, have long been possible in the U.S. and more recently in Canada and Australia, they are only possible under U.K. legislation for antitrust cases.
“This claim was related to events that took place a decade ago and that we addressed at the time,” a spokesperson for Google said by email. “People want to know that they are safe and secure online, which is why for years we’ve focused on building products and infrastructure that respect and protect people’s privacy.”