By Sam Tobin
LONDON (Reuters) – Facebook on Monday asked a London tribunal to block a collective lawsuit valued at up to 3 billion pounds ($3.7 billion) over allegations the social media giant abused its dominant position to monetise users’ personal data.
Meta Platforms Inc, the parent company of the Facebook group, is facing a mass action brought on behalf of around 45 million Facebook users in Britain.
Legal academic Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, who is bringing the case, said Facebook users were not properly compensated for the value of personal data that they had to provide to use the platform.
Her lawyers said users should get compensation for the economic value they would have received if Facebook was not in a dominant position in the market for social networks.
But Meta said the lawsuit was ‘entirely without merit’ and should not be allowed to proceed. Its lawyers said the claimed losses ignore the ‘economic value’ Facebook provides.
Lovdahl Gormsen’s lawyers on Monday asked the Competition Appeal Tribunal to certify the case under the UK’s collective proceedings regime which is roughly equivalent to the class action regime in the United States.
A decision to certify collective proceedings will depend on whether the tribunal decides that the individual cases can appropriately be dealt with together, rather than on their merits.
Ronit Kreisberger, representing Lovdahl Gormsen, told the tribunal that ‘Meta’s data practices violate the prohibition on abusive conduct by dominant firms’.
‘There is unquestionably a case for Meta to answer at trial,’ Kreisberger argued.
But lawyers representing Meta said the lawsuit wrongly assumes that any ‘excess profits’ it might make equates to a financial loss suffered by individual Facebook users.
This approach ‘takes no account whatsoever of the significant economic value of the service provided by Facebook’, Marie Demetriou said in court documents.
She said Lovdahl Gormsen’s estimate of potential claimants’ total losses 3 billion pounds, including interest is ‘at the very least wildly inflated’.
(Reporting by Sam Tobin; Editing by Bernadette Baum)