Google sued for swindling 20 million UK customers in £920 million consumer claim

Google faces trial for overcharging 19.5 million UK customers in its Play Store. The action aims to compensate Android smartphone and tablet owners.

Google is facing trial for overcharging 19.5 million UK customers in its Google Play Store. The consumer legal action aims to compensate Android smartphone and tablet owners for years of overcharging for apps and in-app digital content. Sign up to stay updated.

Liz Coll, who is leading the action, said:

‘Google has done a great job in opening up access to all the benefits of smartphones for millions of people including me in the UK. But while it claims to be an open system offering choice, in reality Google has shut out competition and locked consumers into its own app store and its own payment system.’

About the Google Play Store claim

Google is facing a demand for £920 million in consumer compensation for allegedly overcharging customers for buying apps and making in-app purchases. These charges were levied on a range of digital services provided by popular apps like Minecraft, Football Manager and Driving Theory Test.

It’s typical for 30% of what is spent when shopping in the Google Play Store to go straight to Google. Coll, a consumer tech policy expert, is claiming this is a breach of UK competition law and an abuse of its dominant position.

Generally Google Play Store purchases are routed through Google’s own payment processing system, which is where high commission charges are added. Google is accused of discouraging developers from distributing Android apps through alternatives to Google Play Story. This in turn stops app developers being able to offer lower prices.

Coll argues this practice is unlawful, and that Google would not be able to charge customers such an excessive fee if its devices were open to competition.

Legal team behind the claim

Coll has instructed the law firm Hausfeld & Co. LLP to represent her in this claim. She is represented by Lesley Hannah, Luke Streatfeild, Sofie Edwards, Kio Gwilliam, Anna Stellardi and Antonio Delussu. Lesley Hannah said:

‘Google dominates the Android smartphone market and uses that dominance to restrict competition and charge excessive and unfair app store fees that are out of all proportion to the cost of providing those services.’

Hausfeld & Co. LLP has instructed barristers Ronit Kreisberger QC and Michael Armitage from Monckton Chambers, Mark Hoskins QC, Jennifer MacLeod and Matthew Kennedy from Brick Court Chambers, and George McDonald from 4 New Square. The claim is being funded by Vannin Capital. 

Coll’s application for Collective Proceedings Order was granted by the specialist legal body the Competition Appeal Tribunal in July 2022.  The claim will be going to trial in the Autumn of 2025 unless it is settled beforehand. 

Who is eligible for compensation?

Anyone who owns an Android smartphone or tablet who has bought apps, paid subscriptions or made other in-app purchases within the UK App Store since 1 October 2015 is potentially eligible for compensation. 

You can find a record of all your purchases by logging into your Play Store or Google account and checking ‘Payments and subscriptions’ or ‘Order history’.

The claim applies to apps on Android smartphones or tablets that require download, subscription payments or allow for in-app purchases. It does not apply to apps that provide physical goods or services – like Deliveroo or Uber – which are not required to use Google Play Store’s payment system.

Sign up to Consumer Voice to stay updated as the claim progresses. 

Google dismisses the claim

Google says:

‘We compete vigorously and fairly for developers and consumers – 97% of developers on Google Play don’t pay any service fee at all, which means their apps are free to consumers. As a result of recent changes, 99% of developers now qualify for a service fee of 15% or less.’

It also says:

‘Android gives people more choice than any other mobile platform in deciding which apps and app stores they use – in fact most Android phones come preloaded with more than one app store.’

Investigations into Google

Google is under mounting pressure internationally for alleged anti competitive practices. The UK Competition and Markets Authority and the European Commission are investigating Google’s App Store conduct. The company is also facing regulatory action in the Netherlands, Australia, South Korea and India.

A similar claim is being pursued by Dr Rachael Kent regarding Apple’s alleged abuse of Play Store practices

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