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Wanna fight Google’s alleged European evildoing? Then join us, says US legal firm
There's GOLD in them thar antitrust cases, apparently
As Google’s European antitrust woes continue (and problems in India appear) lawyers and lobbyists have teamed up to help facilitate more cases against the Chocolate Factory.
American legal firm Hausfeld and Avisa, which styles itself as a “boutique public affairs consultancy” – that’s a lobby agency to you and me – on Tuesday launched a new platform called GRIP (Google Redress and Integrity Platform) to help bring claims against the giant ad flinger.
The pair have form in going after the search monster. Hausfeld has represented Foundem, the British company that was one of the first to file a complaint with the European Commission, while Avisa represents French search firm 1PlusV, which claimed it had been blacklisted by Google and demanded damages of $423m in 2011.
Despite this, GRIP maintains on its website that “there is no big competitor of Google behind GRIP”. It adds that it “is not an industry lobby, but a platform providing information, representation and legal services”.
The organisation has been set up specifically to manage “the fightback by all the firms that Google has destroyed or messed up as part of its drive for market domination”.
"This is Google's victims, taking their complaints to the next level,” said GRIP in an email. “The leading motivation is fairness in the marketplace."
"In instances of abuse of market dominance, a player with significant market power is able to tip the scales further to its advantage not on merits, but in an abusive manner,” it added.
The European Commission is of course already investigating this and sent a charge sheet to Google earlier this year, and others are expected to follow.
In the last few days, Google has claimed the Commission’s antitrust case against is wrong "as a matter of fact, law, and economics".
The central thrust of the advertising giant’s argument is that it is not dominant in the online shopping market, and the Commish had failed to “consider the impact of major shopping services like Amazon and eBay, who are the largest players in this space.”
Speaking at the GRIP launch on Tuesday morning, Jacques Lafitte, one of the founding partners of Avisa, said that its aim is different: “It’s about victims, not public enforcement.”
The group expects to take cases in many countries, but said that to date most of those who have been in contact are from Germany, with a few in France.
Hausfeld managing partner, Laurent Geelhand, said that he personally would prefer to take cases to the courts, but that each case will be judged on its merits: “Each case will be different. Some of those companies may be very successful, some may be different, but victims are entitled to representation.”
Of course those “victims” will not be individual consumers. The pair admitted that this is not a fertile ground for class action because any damage to consumers is indirect. However, they said they could not ignore that they have been contacted by dozens of companies in relation to Google.
Asked it they were just cashing in on a climate of hostility towards Google in Europe, Lafitte said that “after years of listening to Google's propaganda, it is clear that [it paints] anyone who says something different from [Google] as biased”.
GRIP said it will deal with all of Google’s services, including search, YouTube, maps and Android.
Google declined to comment on the matter. ®