Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Portuguese consumers file antitrust class actions against Apple and Google over their 30% app tax, seeking $200M: fifth country after U.S., UK, Australia, Netherlands

Today the Hausfeld law firm--the global leader in the recovery of antitrust damages--announced that "[c]ollective competition claims [i.e., antitrust class actions] against Apple and Google have been filed with the Portuguese Competition Court with a view to recovering compensation of up to €198 million total on behalf of 6.5 million Portuguese consumers and businesses who made purchases of apps or digital content, services and subscriptions within apps on both Apple’s iOS and Google Android devices."

This makes the westernmost European country the fifth jurisdiction in which the world in which consumer class actions have been brought against Apple and Google over their infamous 30% app tax. The following earlier-filed cases are pending in four other jurisdictions:

And now there's the new pair of Portuguese class actions. The initial plaintiff and proposed class representative for 2.9 million App Store users and 3.6 million Google Play Store users is Fabrizio Esposito, Assistant Professor in Private Law at Lisbon-based NOVA School of Law. The J+Legal firm represents Apple customers while Cardigos represents Android users. The Portuguese firms are being supported by Hausfeld and Spanish law firm Eskariam, who have significant experience with class actions under EU competition law.

We'll see what country will become the sixth in which consumers bring class actions against Apple and Google over their app tax regime.

All those consumer class actions are a serious threat to Apple, which doesn't really care about whether developers feel treated fairly as Tim Cook's deposition at last year's Epic Games v. Apple trial showed, but which does want to be loved--if not worshipped--by consumers. Now imagine a scenario in which at least some of those class actions succeed and many millions--potentially hundreds of millions--of Apple customers worldwide receive letters informing them of the fact that Apple has been found by the courts to have illegally overcharged them, and has been ordered to refund the excessive parts of those App Store charges. It would be devastating--the modern-era equivalent of a medieval pillory.

Google won't like it either, but most Android devices are not made by Google itself, and consumers would still use Android as well as Google's search engine. But Apple's brand would suffer greater damage.

The problem for Apple and Google is that it wouldn't even look a lot better if they settled. Consumers would still receive those letters notifying them that Apple and Google were sued for having overcharged end users, and in that hypothetical scenario would have agreed to make payments.