Google faces claim from UK publishers over online advertising

FILE PHOTO: A view of Google's offices in the Central Saint Giles development in London, Britain, January 14, 2022. REUTERS/John Sibley/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Google was sued on Wednesday by a group of British website publishers who allege the U.S. company and its parent Alphabet abused their dominant position in online advertising, depriving them of revenue.

The class action claim was filed at the Competition Appeal tribunal on behalf of 130,000 businesses publishing around 1.75 million website and apps in Britain, law firms Humphries Kerstetter and Geradin Partners said in a statement.

Google dismissed the lawsuit in an emailed statement.

"Google works constructively with publishers across Europe -- our advertising tools, and those of our many adtech competitors, help millions of websites and apps fund their content, and enable businesses of all sizes to effectively reach new customers. These services adapt and evolve in partnership with those same publishers. This lawsuit is speculative and opportunistic," a spokesperson for the company said.

The online advertising market has been investigated by regulators in Britain, the European Union and the United States, and a 150 million euro fine imposed on Google by France's antitrust watchdog was upheld earlier this year.

Toby Starr, a partner at Humphries Kerstetter which is leading the claim, said multiple investigations into Google's advertising practices were under way.

"However, none of these regulatory actions will do anything to compensate the UK publishers of thousands of websites and mobile apps who have lost billions in advertising revenue because of Google's actions," he said.

"The only way to recoup these losses is through a competition class action."

The action is in parallel with an EU claim that is expected to be filed in the Netherlands next year, the law firms said.

The law firms said economic analysis produced for the claim suggested that Google's action may have reduced advertising revenue by up to 40% for some companies, and the total loss to the businesses from 2014 to date was estimated at up to 13.6 billion pounds ($16.33 billion).

($1 = 0.8328 pounds)

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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