Facebook owner Meta faces £2.3 billion class action in the UK

·3-min read
The case relates to Facebook’s data collection practices between 2015 and 2019  (PA Archive)
The case relates to Facebook’s data collection practices between 2015 and 2019 (PA Archive)

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, faces a surprise class action lawsuit in the UK seeking at least £2.3 billion in damages.

Lawyers have written to Meta informing it of a class action claim in the UK based on the company’s historic data collection practices. They plan to file paperwork for the case shortly.

The case is being bought by Dr Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, a senior research fellow at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) and the director of the Competition Law Forum. It is being handled by law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and funded by Innsworth Litigation Funding.

The case argues that Facebook “abused its market dominance” by forcing UK users to accept aggressive data collection practices if they wanted to sign up for the social network.

The team working on the case says on its website: “Our case will argue that Facebook set an “unfair price’” for its UK users. The “price” set for gaining access to the social network was the surrender of UK users’ highly valuable personal data on a take it or leave it basis for using the network.

“In return, users only received “free” access to Facebook’s social network, and zero monetary recompense whilst Facebook generated billions in revenues from its users’ data. This unfair deal was only possible due to Facebook’s market dominance.”

The “first of its kind” case is being bought on behalf of Facebook’s 44 million UK users and covers the period October 2015 to December 2019. It is being bought under the Competition Act.

Dr Lovdahl Gormsen said: “In a free and fair market, competition should lead to lower prices and increased quality. But 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.”

Quinn Emanuel partner Kate Vernon, who is handling the case, said: “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.

“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. This is a clear abuse of its dominant position in the social network market and UK consumers must be compensated for this egregious behaviour.”

A Meta spokesperson said: “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.”

Dr Lovdahl Gormsen co-authored a 2019 paper on “Facebook’s Anticompetitive Lean in Strategies” that “identifies Facebook’s unrestricted and excessive data collection as a unifying theme that requires immediate antitrust action.”

“Once a privacy-oriented social network, Facebook soon mutated into a surveillance machine designed to hoover people’s personal data,” the paper’s blurb states.

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