Google faces £20bn claim for stripping newspapers of advertising revenue

Google is being sued for up to 25 billion euros (£21.6 billion) for depriving newspapers and internet bloggers of billions of pounds in advertising revenue.

The Big Tech giant is facing class action lawsuits in the UK and the Netherlands for using its advertising technology to unfairly dismiss publishers while boosting ad revenue.

The complaint is filed on behalf of all websites and publishers that run banner ads online, including newspapers, magazines, blogs and other digital media sites.

Toby Starr, a partner at law firm Humphries Kerstetter, said the alleged British victims could potentially have lost up to £7billion in income since 2014.

“That includes news websites across the country with large daily readerships as well as the thousands of small business owners who rely on ad revenue,” he said, “whether from their fishing website, food blog, football fanzine, or other online content they’ve spent time creating.

Newspaper advertising revenue has been hit particularly hard by the rise of Google as brand advertising and classified ad sales have slumped over the past two decades.

Google and Facebook have become dominant forces in the digital advertising market, controlling over 70% of online advertising.

Law firms Geradin Partners and Humphries Kerstetter are considering taking the complaints to court in the Netherlands and to the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal.

The companies, which will seek class action status for the claims, said publishers could owe billions of dollars. The case will see a representative of the ‘class’ take the case on behalf of thousands of publishers online.

The complaint centers around allegations that Google’s ad exchange – its online ad auction technology – was used to distort competition and benefit its own ad publishing service. This meant that Google was unfairly getting a greater proportion of Internet advertising revenue, according to the plaintiffs.

Google has been contacted for comment.

The Californian tech giant was fined 220 million euros by French competition authorities in 2020 for its advertising behavior. In another UK case, the Competition and Markets Authority announced an investigation into whether Google’s advertising activities breached competition law.

The new lawsuit filed by Geradin Partners and Humphries Kerstetter is backed by Harbor lenders.

Litigation funders have pumped millions into UK lawsuits against Big Tech companies in a series of class action lawsuits.

Vannin Capital, a Jersey-based firm, has set up an £11million war chest for a £920million competition claim against Google for excessive charges on its smartphones, according to the pending case.

The plaintiffs allege that the 30% fee charged by Google on payments made through its app store is illegal. Google denies the allegations. Vannin is funding the request through an £11.3million loan deal with its parent company, SoftBank-owned private equity firm Fortress.

Litigation funders receive a share of the proceeds if the case is successful. The rise of investors willing to back high-stakes legal actions has led to a wave of new class action lawsuits in the UK.

According to data from law firm RPC, UK litigation finance companies have doubled their assets in the past three years and now have £2.2 billion in cash to cover claims.